The Federal Emergency Management Agency is warning people to be vigilant about potential scammers and con artists in the wake of recent natural disasters, including Hurricane Harvey.
FEMA has issued an alert warning people to be aware of “suspicious activity or potential fraud from scam artists, identity thieves and other criminals attempting to defraud the government.”
In some instances, people are applying for FEMA benefits using identities stolen from residents of areas hit by the storms.
Read the full FEMA bulletin here.
Identity thieves may also be using information from the recent Equifax breach of credit records to abuse federal programs. Texans who live in areas affected by Harvey should be alert to suspicious activity with their bank accounts, credit cards or any online information.
Natural disasters often bring out scammers — including fake contractors and fake charities — trying to prey on those affected.
The Federal Trade Commission has put together tips to identify scammers and protect your privacy.
- Always get references for anyone doing repairs to your property. Call their previous clients.
- Talk to your neighbors about what they are paying.
- Never pay the full amount upfront.
- Write down the contractor’s driver’s license number and license plate in case you have to call the police.
- Click here for a full list.
You should never give personal information, such as Social Security numbers, bank account numbers or anything else to someone soliciting business over the phone. When in doubt, trust your gut or call someone you trust for advice.
If you receive a check in the mail that you did not apply for, please send the uncashed check to:
P.O. Box 149030
Austin, Texas 78714
For more information on identity theft and disaster fraud, read the FEMA Hurricane Harvey FAQ.
To report fraud to FEMA, contact the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General.
Phone: 800-323-8603, TTY 844-889-4357
FEMA’s Office of the Chief Security Officer tip line: 866-223-0814
Mail: DHS Office of Inspector General; Mail Stop 0305; Department of Homeland Security; 245 Murray Drive SW; Washington DC 20528-0305
If someone is misusing your information, file a complaint on the Federal Trade Commission website.