After a disaster, scammers, con artists, and identity thieves often attempt to take advantage of vulnerable survivors.  Suspicion should rise if you receive a phone call from someone claiming to be FEMA when you have not applied for FEMA benefits or if you apply and are told you already have.

According to the FTC, they’ve been receiving multiple complaints from people living in the hurricane-affected areas in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. People are reporting that:

  • Someone pretending to be from FEMA is calling to ask people for their personal information;
  • People’s identities have been stolen after a recent natural disaster; and
  • Someone has filed for FEMA benefits using people’s names.

FEMA has published tips on how to avoid disaster fraud and what to do if you have already come in contact with a FEMA impersonator.

You try to register for FEMA assistance online, but you receive a verification error. You should call FEMA at 800-621-3362 to complete your registration with a FEMA representative who can tell you the reason for the verification error. If you suspect fraud, contact the Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721. You can also report fraud to the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov.

You receive a call from someone asking to verify your FEMA registration, but you did not apply for FEMA assistance. You may report the name and phone number of the person calling to the Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721. If you are unsure or uncomfortable with anyone you encounter claiming to be an emergency management official, do not give out personal information, and contact local law enforcement.  All FEMA employees will have a FEMA Badge.

An inspector comes to your home without a FEMA photo ID. Do not let someone in your home who claims to be a FEMA inspector but does not have a FEMA photo ID. Always ask to see a FEMA photo ID badge. A FEMA shirt or jacket is not proof of identity. All FEMA representatives, including our contracted inspectors, will have a laminated photo ID. If unsure, call FEMA at 800-621-3362 (FEMA).

Someone comes to your home to conduct an inspection but asks for money before starting. Federal and state workers do not ask for—or accept—money. FEMA representatives will never charge for disaster assistance, home inspections, or for help filling out applications. Stay alert for false promises to speed up the insurance, disaster assistance, or building permit process.

How to report suspicious activity or fraud:

  • Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG)
    • Phone: 1-800-323-8603, TTY 1-844-889-4357.
    • Web: www.oig.dhs.gov
    • Fax: 202-254-4297
    • Mail: DHS Office of Inspector General: Mail Stop 0305, Department of Homeland Security, 245 Murray Drive SW, Washington, DC 20528-0305.
  • FEMA’s Office of the Chief Security Officer (OCSO) Tip line
  • National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline
  • Federal Trade Commission (If survivors discover that someone is misusing their information they should file a complaint)

Lone Star Legal Aid is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit law firm focused on advocacy on behalf of low-income and underserved populations. Lone Star Legal Aid serves the millions of people at 125% of federal poverty guidelines that reside in 72 counties in the eastern and Gulf Coast regions of Texas, and also 4 counties of southwest Arkansas. Lone Star Legal Aid focuses its resources on maintaining, enhancing, and protecting income and economic stability; preserving housing; improving outcomes for children; establishing and sustaining family safety and stability, health and well‐being; and assisting populations with special vulnerabilities, such as those who have disabilities, or who are elderly, homeless, or have limited English language skills. To learn more about Lone Star Legal Aid, visit our website at www.lonestarlegal.org.