Agency sends reminder to exercise caution when recovering from a disaster
On Friday, federal and state officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) released a warning to Texas residents to remain vigilant and beware of possible scams and fraudulent schemes when engaging businesses for disaster-related recovery and repairs.
In the release, FEMA pointed out common scams that often occur post-disaster and offered suggestions on what to look for when hiring contractors, or donating to relief funds.
FEMA: No endorsements
FEMA cautioned that its agency "does not endorse any commercial businesses, products or services" so beware if an organization is touting this statement.
According to FEMA, the following are the more common post-disaster fraud practices (with accompanying tips on how to avoid being a victim):
Contractors that are not legitimate businesses
- Ensure the company has a contractor's license with references that can be verified.
- Ask and verify that the company has general liability insurance and worker's compensation, if not, find another company that does.
- Pay no more than half the costs up front.
Phony housing inspectors
- If the inspector coming to the home does not have and requests the nine-digit registration number, it is not a legitimate FEMA inspector as they will already have this information.
- The only purpose of the FEMA inspector is to verify damages. Eligibility is not determined by the inspector, nor do FEMA inspectors recommend repairs or hire contractors to repair damages.
- Never give banking or personal information to a FEMA inspector, as they are never required by these individuals.
Post-disaster donations that are scams
- Be sure to get the name of the person requesting the donation, the exact name of the charity, its street address, phone number, and website address. Confirm the information by contacting the charity directly to verify the individual is indeed a member/volunteer before handing over any bank cards or cash.
- Procure a receipt and ensure that it has the name of the charity, its street address, and phone number.
- Beware of texts asking for donations, they cannot be verified and no legitimate organization would request credit card or personal information via a text.
State and federal aid offers that are fake:
- No aid employees should call or visit and ask for any sensitive personal information including social security numbers or bank accounts.
- Applicants are not charged by the FEMA or Small Business Administration (SBA) employees and staff for disaster assistance, inspections, or if help is needed when filling out an application.
- A state and/or federal employee does not accept money and should not solicit any donations.
A reminder to report fraudulent activity
FEMA asked residents to report identity thieves, scam artists, any other criminals or suspicious activity to the appropriate authorities.
For suspected fraud, FEMA requests that individuals or businesses contact the FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline: 866-720-5721. Officials ask that victims of price gouging or a home repair scams contact the Office of the Texas Attorney General: 800-252-8011.