How to Distinguish the Real FEMA from Fraudsters Posing as FEMA After a Hurricane
A natural disaster can bring out the very best in people and hurricane Irma is no exception. As soon as the winds died down, individuals, communities, and charitable organizations rallied together to take care of those most affected.
Unfortunately, a natural disaster can also bring out the worst in people. For every person offering a helping hand, there may be an unscrupulous individual scheming to benefit from the event. For example, they may be unlicensed contractors attempting to secure deposits on bogus contracts that will never be completed or may be a fake non-profit organization soliciting donations. It could even be persons posing as government FEMA officials, which is the subject of this article.
Those who have suffered significant property damage due to Hurricane Irma are urged to consider registering with FEMA at www.DisasterAssistance.gov. FEMA can assist persons who are unable to return to their primary residence due to severe damage by offering rental assistance while repairs are being made and can help with the repair and replacement of a home for those homeowners who were uninsured or underinsured. FEMA can also assist with a multitude of other needs such as replacing essential household items, repair or replacement of vehicles, and help with moving and storage expenses.
When applying for assistance, the applicant will be required to provide a Social Security Number, daytime telephone number, mailing address of the damaged property, and any private insurance information. After submitting the application, FEMA will be in contact within ten to fourteen days to schedule an inspection of the damaged property. After the inspection, it will take approximately ten more days for FEMA to review the application and issue a grant or offer a loan from the SBA. If the application is denied, the applicant can appeal the decision within sixty days.
Beware of Fake FEMA
During the disaster recovery process, there are many scam artists, identity thieves, and other criminals that appear on the internet, through phone calls, and in person in the affected communities. Beware of visits, calls, e-mails, and temporary storefronts claiming to be from FEMA. These may be imposters attempting to get money through security or other deposits, Social Security numbers, bank account information, or other personal information with the intention of stealing a person’s identity or money. Be cautious and be aware that:
- FEMA does NOT charge for applications, inspections, or assistance in filling out applications
- Federal and State workers will never ask for or accept cash
- The inspector will know the registration number from your application and will not ask you for it
- FEMA inspectors will NEVER ask for banking or other personal information
- Inspectors will not endorse specific contractors for repairs
- FEMA will NOT promise a disaster grant and ask for a cash deposit
- There is NO FEE required to apply for or to get disaster assistance from FEMA, the U.S. Small Business Administration, or the state
- If you suspect fraud, call the FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721.
We believe that when natural disasters occur, members of the community should come together. Unfortunately, bad actors will often exploit hard-working business owners and individuals who are simply trying to recover.
ABOUT VERNON LITIGATION GROUP
Vernon Litigation Group is based in Naples, Florida with additional offices in Georgia. Vernon Litigation Group represents businesses and individuals throughout the United States who have financial disputes, including insurance, construction, contract, and fraud disputes arising out of hurricanes and other natural disasters.
For more information, contact:
Vernon Litigation Group
Victor Bayata is a partner at Vernon Litigation Group. He focuses his practice in the areas of business and investment litigation, arbitration (including FINRA, JAMS and AAA arbitration), employment disputes involving financial advisors and other investment professionals, and securities-related matters.