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Fact Sheet: How to avoid fraud after the recent flooding

Release date: 
June 13, 2019
Release Number: 
FS-1

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas – There are a number of fraud concerns flood survivors need to be aware of to protect themselves:

 

  1. How do I know if a FEMA representative is legitimate?
    • If you are meeting a FEMA representative in person, ask to see their identification badge. All federal employees carry official, laminated photo IDs.
    • When a FEMA inspector comes to your damaged home, he or she will require verification of your identity, but will already have your registration number. Keep your FEMA registration number safe. Do not share it with others.
    • No federal government disaster assistance agency will call you to ask for your bank account information, nor to verify it. If you’re unsure whether someone claiming to be a FEMA representative is legitimate, say you are hanging up and call the main FEMA helpline at 800-621-3362 to verify or report the incident.
    • No FEMA representative will ask you to pay for assistance of any kind. If you are asked for funds for any reason, please call and report this to your local law enforcement officials.
       
  2. Do inspectors charge to conduct an inspection:
    • We do not charge a fee at any time to inspect your property. FEMA and the Small Business Administration will never ask you for money.
    • Our inspectors never require banking information or payment in any form. They also do not determine eligibility or dollar amounts of assistance.
    • They, too, will have official, laminated photo IDs.
       
  3. What happens when a building contractor shows up and says they were sent by FEMA?
    • FEMA does not send building or repair contractors. The job of a FEMA housing inspector is to verify damage.
    • FEMA does not hire, endorse or have an approval process for specific contractors to fix homes or recommend repairs.
    • For information on how to protect your home and property against possible future flooding visit at www.fema.gov/armit.
    • Prior to making any repairs to your flood-damaged home reach out to your city or county building department for any new requirements or guidelines.
  1. How do I hire a legitimate building contractor?

Here are a few tips to consider when hiring a legitimate building contractor:

    • Always use a contractor licensed and bonded in your state and backed by reliable references.
    • An unethical contractor may actually create more damage to get the work.
    • Require a written contract with anyone you hire. Be sure to read and understand the contract. Never sign a blank contract, never pay more than half the cost of the job upfront and have a clear timeframe of the agreed-upon date of completion.
    • Be sure and get a written receipt for any payment.
    • If one estimate seems much lower than the others and sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Many unethical contractors provide low bids that seem attractive but are often uninsured and may charge substantial cancellation fees.
    • Never pay for work in full in advance. The Better Business Bureau recommends a consumer pay half or less of the contract price before the contractor begins repairs and the remaining balance once the work is complete and the owner is satisfied.
  1. What should people who did not apply for disaster assistance do if they suspect they are a victim of disaster fraud?
    • To report disaster fraud, contact the Department of Justice’s Disaster Fraud hotline at 866-720-5721 or email disaster@leo.gov.
    • You can also file a complaint with the OIG:
      • Online at the OIGs website: www.oig.dhs.gov
      • Mail it to the DHS Office of Inspector General. Mail Stop 0305, Department of Homeland Security, 245 Murray Drive SW, Washington, DC 20528-0305
    • Contact the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362 if you have not previously registered for FEMA assistance, and do not wish to register. They will not need to take further action. The original application will be locked to maintain a record of the potentially fraudulent file.
       
  2. If I was a victim of disaster fraud, but I still need to apply for assistance, what should I do?
    • Contact the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362 and tell them you have not previously registered for FEMA assistance and that you wish to register.
    • Will I need to wait until the investigation is complete before I can register for assistance?
      • No. FEMA does not need to complete the investigation before you can have a new registration taken. However, FEMA will need to verify your identity.
         
  3. Is there anything else people should know?
    • Unfortunately, scam artists may pose as government officials, aid workers, charitable organizations or insurance company employees.
       
  4. Do not respond to texts, phone calls or requests seeking your personal information. The only time you should provide personal information is during the initial application process for FEMA help or when you initiate contact with FEMA to follow up on an application.
    • FEMA inspectors only require verification of identity (not your FEMA registration number).
    • FEMA may call you by auto-dialer in some cases. These calls will not request your personal information. You will only be asked to call the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362.

9. Ask for identification and don’t be afraid to hang up on cold callers.

  • If you need to contact government agencies, use official information posted on their websites or in other verified sources.
  1. Do not sign anything you don’t understand.
Last Updated: 
July 16, 2019 - 17:48