FEMA Warns of Disaster-Related Fraud

Press release says scammers may pose as inspectors, government officials, volunteers or contractors.

by Pamela Pritt, The Register-Herald, Beckley, W.Va. / June 30, 2016
West Virginia Natural Resources police officer Chris Lester searches a flooded home in Rainelle, W. Va., Saturday, June 25, 2016. Heavy rains that pummeled West Virginia left multiple people dead, and authorities said Saturday that an unknown number of people in the hardest-hit county remained unaccounted for. AP/Steve Helber

(TNS) - As thousands of West Virginians are at their most vulnerable after a 1,000-year flood event, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is warning of scammers who may attempt to cheat flood victims.

A FEMA media release said scammers may pose as inspectors, government officials, volunteers or contractors.

"These people may try to obtain personal information or collect payment for disaster assistance or repairs," the release said.

FEMA offered these tips:

• Ask to see ID badges. All FEMA representatives will have a laminated photo ID. A FEMA shirt or jacket is not proof of identity. If you are unsure or uncomfortable with anyone you encounter, please contact local law enforcement.

• Safeguard personal information. Be cautious when giving personal information such as Social Security or bank account numbers to anyone. FEMA will only request an applicant’s bank account numbers during the initial registration process. However FEMA inspectors will require verification of identity.

Story continues below video

• Beware of people going door-to-door. People knocking on doors at damaged homes or phoning homeowners claiming to be building contractors could be con artists, especially if they ask for personal information or solicit money.

• Federal workers do not solicit or accept money. FEMA and Small Business Administration staff never charge applicants for disaster assistance, inspections or help to fill out applications. FEMA inspectors verify damages, but do not involve themselves in any aspect of the repair nor recommend any contractor.

• FEMA Disaster Survivor Assistance teams may be in your community providing information and assisting people in registering with FEMA or updating their files. The teams coordinate their activities with local emergency managers and make local law enforcement agencies aware of their presence. The teams always consist of at least two people, and may include employees of WV DHSEM as well as FEMA. They will always be wearing FEMA or WV DHSEM shirts and laminated photo IDs. Disaster Survivor Assistance teams never ask for or accept payment for their services.

Always use licensed and bonded contractors and ask for credentials. Use West Virginia contractors if you can. You can verify a West Virginia contractor’s license online at wvlabor.com/newwebsite/Pages/contractor_searchNEW.cfm. Never pay for anything in advance of work being done.

The consumer protection hotline for the Attorney General’s office is 1-800-368-8808 Consumer Protection

— Email: ppritt@register-herald.com Follow PamPrittRH on Twitter

———

©2016 The Register-Herald (Beckley, W.Va.)

Visit The Register-Herald (Beckley, W.Va.) at www.register-herald.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Platforms & Programs