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Disaster Survivors: Beware of Fraud

Release date: 
January 20, 2020
Release Number: 
DR-4473-PR NR 03

CAGUAS, Puerto Rico – The Government of Puerto Rico and federal recovery officials urge disaster survivors to watch for and report any suspicious activity or potential fraud.

Disasters often bring communities together but con artists, identity thieves and other criminals may target survivors. The most common types of post-disaster fraud include phony housing inspectors, fraudulent building contractors, bogus pleas for disaster donations, fake offers of municipal or federal aid and charging for free services.

Scam attempts can be made over the phone, by mail or email, through the internet, or in person. It is important to remain alert, ask questions and always ask for identification when someone claims to represent FEMA or another government agency. Con artists are creative and resourceful. If an offer sounds too good to be true, it should be questioned.

Here are some tips to safeguard against fraud:

Ask to see ID badges. All FEMA representatives carry an identification badge with a photograph. A FEMA shirt or jacket is not proof of identity.

Keep your FEMA registration number safe. This number is your key to your application information. Do not share it with others. FEMA housing inspectors will ask for identification to verify your identity but will already have your registration number.

Safeguard personal information. FEMA representatives will ask for social security and bank account numbers when you register and may ask for it after registration. Be cautious when giving this information to others who ask for it. Scam artists may pose as government officials, aid workers, or insurance company employees.

Federal workers never ask for a fee or accept money. FEMA staff never charge for disaster assistance, inspections, or help completing applications.

FEMA housing inspectors verify damage, they do not make repairs, recommend any contractor or determine if a home is safe to re-enter.

You can take these steps to protect against fraud:

  • Before any work begins, get a written contract detailing all work to be performed, the costs, a projected completion date and how to negotiate changes and settle disputes.
  • Use a licensed and bonded contractor.
  • Take a picture of your contractor, their vehicle and license plate.
  • Take a picture of the contractor’s business card and driver’s license.
  • Don’t offer personal financial information over the phone. Know who you are dealing with and always ask for identification.
  • Watch out for middlemen who promise you will receive disaster grants or money, especially if they ask for an upfront payment.

If you suspect anyone of fraudulent activities, call the free FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 available 24-hours a day. Complaints may also be made to local law enforcement agencies.

 

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FEMA’s mission is helping people before, during, and after disasters.

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) or 711 for Video Relay Service. Multilingual operators are available. (Press 2 for Spanish.) TTY call 800-462-7585.

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Last Updated: 
January 22, 2020 - 13:35