The Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) is warning Louisiana residents impacted by Hurricane Ida to be wary of scams and con artists “trying to take advantage” of their disastrous situation.
In a statement, FEMA spokesperson Nathan Custer said con artists and criminals are “posing as phony property inspectors or building contractors.” He also warned that thieves may try to steal money or personal information through fraud “by directing survivors to apply on their website.”
“Survivors should be aware that con artists and criminals may try to obtain money or steal personal information through fraud, scams or identity theft,” FEMA said in a statement. “In some cases, thieves try to register with FEMA using names, addresses and Social Security numbers they have stolen from survivors.”
Here are some tips to help spot a scam, from FEMA:
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 emails 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.
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.
More information is available at the following link: https://www.fema.gov/fact-sheet/beware-fraud-and-scam-artists-1.