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FEMA Warns Residents to Be Wary of Fraud and Scam Artists 


By SÍLE MOLONEY

Williamsbridge Oval Park is flooded on the morning of Sept. 2, 2021, following the arrival of Hurricane Ida the previous evening. This is a composition of a few photos in order to show the extent of the flooding.
Photo by Adi Talwar

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has issued a warning to New Yorkers, once again in recent days, to be wary of fraud and scam artists. Agency officials said, after a disaster, scam artists, identity thieves and other criminals often attempt to take advantage of disaster survivors. Federal and state emergency management officials urge residents to watch out for and report any suspicious activity. 

 

Officials said unscrupulous people may try to take advantage of vulnerable survivors by posing as official disaster aid workers or even as relatives trying to help survivors complete their applications.  

 

Common post-disaster fraud practices include: 

  • Fake Offers of State or Federal Aid

Federal and state workers do not solicit or accept money. FEMA  and the U.S. Small Business Administration personnel never charge applicants for disaster  assistance, inspections or help in completing applications. 

 

When a disaster occurs, applicants may be vulnerable to phony housing  inspectors claiming to represent FEMA to inspect damage. Ask to see the inspector’s identification  badge. All FEMA personnel and contractors will have official laminated photo identification. Housing  inspectors have every applicant’s nine-digit FEMA registration number. Field inspectors may use  different types of communication methods to contact applicants. Inspectors may call from  government-issued phones or personal cell phones so applicants may receive calls from different  area codes. Inspectors can also reach out by text messages and emails, using contact information  applicants provide in their FEMA application. But inspectors never request money to complete an  inspection. 

 

There may be occasions when a FEMA representative must contact you to verify personal data. You should request a FEMA identification number. If you are unsure of the caller’s identity or you are  suspicious of someone who says he or she is a housing inspector sent by FEMA, call the FEMA  Helpline at 800-621-3362 (711/VRS). Lines are open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week, and  operators can connect you to a specialist who speaks your language. If you use a relay service such  as video relay service, captioned telephone service or others, give FEMA the number for that service. 

 

You may be contacted by scam artists posing as disaster workers who  are seeking money for services. Federal, state and local disaster workers do not solicit or accept  money. Nor will federal disaster employees promise a disaster grant. 

 

  • Fraudulent Charitable Solicitations

A list of reputable charities that are approved by the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance is available at Give.org. Criminals exploit survivors by sending  fraudulent communications through email or social media and by creating phony websites designed  to solicit contributions.

 

On Oct. 1, Alliance officials said, “Do not respond to unsolicited emails. Watch out for pushy telemarketers and fake charities that sound real by using similar names.” For more information about avoiding  charitable giving scams, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website at Scam Alerts

 

The Federal Trade Commission has information on how rental-listing scams  work. For instance, scammers know that finding the right apartment or vacation rental can be hard  work, and a seemingly good deal is hard to pass up. Learn more at Rental Listing Scams.  

 

  • Unlicensed/Uninsured Contractors

Often after a disaster, individuals will represent  themselves as legitimate contractors. Ask for references, be cautious about advanced payments,  and make sure they are licensed and obtain the proper permits. Before you hire a home improvement contractor, check whether the contractor is licensed or registered in your county: 

New York City: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/dca/consumers/check-license.page 

Nassau County: Licensing / Registrations | Nassau County, NY – Official Website (nassaucountyny.gov)

Suffolk County: https://www.suffolkcountyny.gov/Departments/Consumer-Affairs 

Rockland County: http://rocklandgov.com/departments/consumer-protection-weights-and measures/licensed-businesses 

Westchester County: https://consumer.westchestergov.com/trades/find-a-licensed-contractor 

 

If you have knowledge of fraud, waste or abuse, you can report these tips — 24 hours a day, seven  days a week – to the FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or email [email protected].  

 

If you believe you or a loved one has become a victim of a scam or identity theft, report it  immediately to your local police or sheriff’s department, or contact the office of the New York state  Attorney General: 

Consumer Protection Hotline, 800-697-1220 

https://www.ny.gov/agencies/division-consumer-protection 

https://dos.ny.gov/file-consumer-complaint 

 

As reported, FEMA recently issued a similar warning to residents of such fraud and scam artists in early September following Hurricane Ida.

 

For referrals to agencies that support community-specific needs, call 211 or visit https://www.211nys.org/contact-us. For New York City residents, call 311. 

 

For the latest on New York’s Hurricane Ida recovery efforts, visit fema.gov/disaster/4615. Follow us  on Twitter at twitter.com/femaregion2 and facebook.com/fema

 

 

 



Source: on 2021-10-06 14:22:30

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