FEMA to residents: Beware of fraud, scams and price gouging

Editor’s note: This article was submitted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
State and federal recovery officials are encouraging Florida residents to watch for and report any suspicious activity or potential fraud from scam artists, identity thieves and other criminals who may try to prey on survivors vulnerable due to the recent hurricanes.

They should also be on the lookout for price gouging by gas stations, hotels and other businesses serving disaster survivors in Florida.

Residents in Flagler and Volusia counties continue to clean up their properties from damage left by Hurricane Matthew earlier this month.(DUANE C. FERNANDEZ SR./HARDNOTTSPHOTOGRAPHY.COM)
Residents in Flagler and Volusia counties continue to clean up their properties from damage left by Hurricane Matthew earlier this month.
(DUANE C. FERNANDEZ SR./HARDNOTTSPHOTOGRAPHY.COM)

FEMA encourages survivors to be especially vigilant for these common post-disaster fraud practices.

Fraudulent building contractors
Use only licensed local contractors backed by reliable references.

Demand that contractors carry general liability insurance and workers’ compensation.

Don’t pay more than half the costs of repairs upfront.

Bogus pleas for post-disaster donations
Verify legitimate solicitations by asking for the charity’s exact name, street address, phone number and web address.

Phone the charity and confirm that the person asking for funds is a genuine employee or volunteer.

Don’t pay donations with cash.

Request a receipt with the charity’s name, street address, and phone number.

Fake offers of state or federal aid
Beware of visits, telephone calls or e-mails — claiming to be from FEMA or the State of Florida — asking for your Social Security number, bank account number or other sensitive information.

Avoid scam artists who promise a disaster grant and ask for large cash deposits or advance payments in full.

Federal and state workers never solicit or accept money or charge applicants for disaster assistance, inspections or help in filling out applications.

Those who question the validity of a contact or suspect fraud are encouraged to call the toll free FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or the Florida Attorney General’s fraud and price gouging hotline at 866-966-7226. Complaints also may be made by contacting local law enforcement agencies.

For more information on Florida’s disaster recovery, visit fema.gov/disaster/4280, twitter.com/FEMA, facebook.com/FEMA  and fema.gov/blog, floridadisaster.org or #FLRecovers.

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