FEMA warns of identity theft and other Hurricane Ida scams

Louisiana News

LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) — Disaster is striking twice for those who are victims of FEMA related scams following Hurricane Ida. However, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) says there are ways you can catch them.

“You got to just be careful,” FEMA Spokesman Patrick Boland advised. “You know this is a time when a lot of money is floating around and when that happens, you see a lot of fraud.”

In some cases, people are reporting FEMA agents showing up for inspections on claims they never registered for. Boland admitted one of the hardest frauds to prevent is identity theft. Homeowners are learning someone falsely used their name, address, and social security number to get the initial hundreds of dollars used for emergency shelter and food, but when an inspector eventually arrives, the truth comes out.

“If you’re homes not damaged, and you don’t have losses, then FEMA been defrauded essentially, but they’ve used your identity to do it, so you have to protect your identity and do everything you can to make sure it’s secure,” Boland stated.

One way to check if you have fallen victim is to see if someone has already filed in your name. You can learn that by registering your damage on disaster-assistance-dot-gov. You won’t be able to if the information has already been used. It is not advised you use this method if you have no damage. Instead, call police if you believe your identity is compromised.

Other con artists pose as FEMA agents over the phone or in person. Boland warns they will ask for personal information that could cost you.

  • Phony property inspections:
    • Be on alert if somebody asks for your nine-digit registration number. FEMA inspectors will never ask for this information. They already have it in their records.
    • No government disaster assistance official will call you to ask for your financial account information. If you doubt a FEMA representative is legitimate, hang up and call the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362 to report the incident.
    • Housing inspectors never charge a fee to inspect your property.
  • Phony building contractors:
    • FEMA does not hire or endorse specific contractors to fix homes or recommend repairs. A FEMA housing inspector’s job is to verify damage.
    • Always hire a reputable engineer, architect or building official to inspect your home. An unethical contractor may create damage to get work.
    • When in doubt, report any suspicious behavior to your local authorities.
  • FEMA Disaster Survivor Assistance
    • Federal and local disaster workers do not solicit or accept money. Don’t trust anyone who offers financial help and then asks for money or personal information.
    • Do not disclose information to any unsolicited telephone calls and e-mails from individuals claiming to be FEMA or federal employees. FEMA will not contact you unless you have called FEMA first or applied for assistance.
    • FEMA representatives will ask for social security and bank account numbers when you apply and may ask for it again after you apply. 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.
  • 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.
  • Blue Roof Program
    • Blue Roof representatives never solicit your participation, nor will they ask for Social Security, bank account numbers or any compensation for this service. You must apply for the Blue Roof program and complete a Right of Entry form.

Boland warned, “These are kind of red flags for people. Do not fall for them.”

  • To report scams, fraud and identity-theft contact:
    • FEMA’s toll-free Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721;
    • Office of the Attorney General Consumer Protection Section, P.O. Box 94005, Baton Rouge, LA 70804-9005, fax: 225-326-6499;
    • Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors at https://arlspublic.lslbc.louisiana.gov/Home/Index;
    • or Local law-enforcement agencies.

Boland concluded, “We can’t prevent fraud from taking place, but we just want to help look out for each other. Let’s take care of each other.”

For the latest information on Hurricane Ida, visit fema.gov/disaster/4611. Or follow the FEMA Region 6 Twitter account at twitter.com/FEMARegion6.

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