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Beware of Fraud and Scams, Warns the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA USA)

FEMA LogoFEMA advises survivors to be aware of fraud and scams. FEMA also encourages them to report any suspicious activity or potential fraud from scam artists, identity thieves, and other criminals.

When natural disasters occur, it is common to find people who want to take advantage of survivors by posing as official disaster aid workers or as relatives trying to help survivors complete their applications. Federal authorities are using high-end government technology (Govtech) platforms and solutions to track down fraud claim incidents and the perpetrators. Perpetrators are targeting gullible victims with unscrupulous tactics, promising them unsolicited relief aids and claim support in response to the disaster.

If you were impacted by the wildfires in Fresno, Los Angeles, Madera, Mendocino, Napa, San Bernardino, San Diego, Shasta, Siskiyou, and Sonoma counties, you may be eligible for FEMA assistance. But, don’t trust anyone else in the industry who might promise you quick relief aid.

Survivors should also be aware that this kind of situation doesn’t happen only at the beginning of the response to the disaster when people might be more vulnerable. It can happen anytime. It is important to know that FEMA does not endorse any commercial businesses, products or services.

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Residents in Fresno, Los Angeles, Madera, Mendocino, Napa, San Bernardino, San Diego, Shasta, Siskiyou and Sonoma counties should be aware of common tactics used by these criminals, such as phone calls from people claiming to work for FEMA.

If you have uninsured or underinsured losses from the recent California wildfires and have registered with FEMA, the next step is the home inspection. All inspections will be conducted by phone due to COVID-19 and the need to protect the safety and health of our workforce and survivors.

Beware of Vicious Callers

The caller might ask for the survivor’s Social Security number and income or banking information or insurance policy details. Giving out this type of information can help an unscrupulous person make a false claim for assistance or commit identity theft.

FEMA encourages survivors and business owners to be vigilant for these common post-disaster fraud practices:

Housing inspectors claiming to represent FEMA

  • Be cautious if somebody asks for your nine-digit registration number. FEMA inspectors will never ask for this information. They already have it in their records.
  • Don’t give anyone your banking information. FEMA inspectors never require banking or other personal information such as a Social Security number.

Fake offers of local or federal aid

  • Don’t trust someone who asks for money. Federal and local disaster workers do not solicit or accept money. FEMA and U.S. Small Business Administration staff never charge applicants for disaster assistance, inspections or help in filling out applications.
  • Don’t believe anyone who promises a disaster grant and asks for large cash deposits or advance payments in full.

Fraudulent building contractors

  • Use licensed or verified local contractors backed by reliable references.
  • To find licensed certified contractors check with the California Department of Consumer Affairs.
  • Don’t pay more than half the costs of repairs in advance.
  • Demand that contractors detail the job to be done with guarantees in writing.

If you suspect fraud, you may call the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721.

You also may report fraud by a business by filing an online complaint with the California Office of the Attorney General’s Public Inquiry Unit at www.oag.ca.gov/report.

You can visit this link to access all FEMA Assistance related information.

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