Indianapolis, IN – As Indiana residents work to recover from flooding earlier this year, they should be on guard for and report suspicious activity of potential fraud, scam artists and other criminals who prey on survivors.
The following are examples of common post-disaster fraud practices and important information to help avoid becoming a victim:
Fraudulent phone calls or home visits: Individuals falsely claiming to be from FEMA or a government agency who do not have proper photo identification.
- Survivors will be asked to provide their Social Security number and banking information only when registering for FEMA assistance. They should never give this information to contractors.
- Ask to see the inspector’s identification badge. A FEMA or U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) shirt or jacket is not proof of someone’s affiliation with the government. Federal employees and contractors carry official photo identification.
- FEMA inspectors will already have applicants’ nine digit registration number.
- FEMA inspectors will never require banking or other personal information.
- If in doubt, survivors should not give out any information.
Fake offers of federal aid: A phone or in-person solicitor promises to speed up the insurance, disaster assistance or building-permit process for a fee. Other scam artists promise a disaster grant and ask for large cash deposits or advance payments in full.
- Federal workers do not solicit or accept money.
- FEMA and SBA staffers will never charge applicants for disaster assistance, inspections or for assisting individuals fill out applications.
Fraudulent building contractors: Disasters also attract fraudulent contractors who offer to begin work immediately and request a cash advance payment. When hiring a contractor:
- Residents should only use licensed local contractors who are backed by reliable references and get written estimates from at least three contractors that include the cost of labor and materials.
- Residents should insist that contractors carry general liability insurance and workers’ compensation. If they aren’t insured, you may be liable for accidents that occur on your property.
- Don’t pay more than half the costs of repairs upfront.
Dishonest pleas for post-disaster donations: Dishonest solicitors may play on the emotions of disaster survivors. These solicitations may come by phone, email, letter or face-to-face.
- Residents should verify legitimate solicitations by asking for the charity’s exact name, street address, phone number and website address, then phone the charity directly and confirm that the person asking for funds is an employee or volunteer.
- Residents should not pay donations with cash.
- Residents should request a receipt with the charity’s name, street address, and phone number.
If you suspect someone is perpetrating fraud, call the FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or your local police department.
Disaster recovery assistance is available without regard to race, color, religion, nationality, sex, age, disability, English proficiency or economic status. If you or someone you know has been discriminated against, call FEMA toll-free at 800-621-FEMA (3362). For TTY call 800-462-7585.
FEMA’s temporary housing assistance and grants for public transportation expenses, medical and dental expenses, and funeral and burial expenses do not require individuals to apply for an SBA loan. However, applicants who receive SBA loan applications must submit them to SBA to be eligible for assistance that covers personal property, vehicle repair or replacement, and moving and storage expenses.
FEMA’s mission is helping people before, during and after a disaster.
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is the federal government’s primary source of money for the long-term rebuilding of disaster-damaged private property. SBA helps businesses of all sizes, private non-profit organizations, homeowners and renters fund repairs or rebuilding efforts and cover the cost of replacing lost or disaster-damaged personal property. These disaster loans cover losses not fully compensated by insurance or other recoveries and do not duplicate benefits of other agencies or organizations. For more information, applicants may contact SBA’s Disaster Assistance Customer Service Center by calling 800-659-2955 (Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals may call 800-877-8339), emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or visiting SBA’s Web site at sba.gov/disaster.