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FEMA Fraud Watch

October 6, 2015

Unfortunately there is a common trend of fraudulent activity after natural disasters. FEMA recently published a press release warning wildfire survivors of fraud dangers, giving a few common post-disaster practices to avoid fraud issues of your own should you be affected.

Often someone trying to scam you will call or visit you. When people visit your home, make sure to always ask for an official photo ID badge (all federal employees carry one), as their attire with logos is not proof of affiliation. Another thing is to pay attention to what they offer you, what information they ask for and what they ask to get from you. The questions they ask shouldn’t include anything about your Social Security number or bank information, as this is only asked for when you initially register for FEMA assistance. It is absolutely a scam if someone offers to speed up the process in any way, or if they request money to speed up the process or increase the amount of assistance. Federal workers would NEVER ask for money.

If you can see damage from the street there is a greater chance for fraud. “It is important to note that FEMA housing inspectors verify damage, but do not hire or endorse specific contractors to fix homes or recommend repairs. They do not determine your eligibility for assistance.” Which leads us to contractors: do not allow contractors to start working on your house on the spot. Instead, make sure only to “use licensed local contractors backed by reliable references, get a written estimate from at least three contractors, including the cost of labor and materials and read the fine print.” You should also make sure that your contractors are properly insured and carry “general liability insurance and workers’ compensation. If he or she is not insured, you may be liable for accidents that occur on your property.” For more information about contractors,  everything else we addressed and more, see the FEMA press release.

Call the FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline at 1-866-720-5721 or your local police if you suspect someone is trying to con you.

FEMA information obtained from their press release: http://www.fema.gov/news-release/2015/09/28/wildfire-survivors-warned-beware-fraud

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