Disaster Officials Warn Against Fraud

Release Date: March 15, 2008
Release Number: 1747-006

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. -- The Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) warn residents in the disaster areas to watch for fraud. It is an unpleasant reality that disaster recovery efforts can bring out scam artists, price gougers and dishonest operators who try to capitalize on the misfortunes of others.

There are steps that individuals can take to protect themselves from unscrupulous business practices in the aftermath of severe storms and flooding.  The following tips will help Illinois residents and companies avoid being duped as they rebuild from the disaster of January 7th.

Safeguard Against Common Post Disaster Scams

Residents of Illinois should be wary of con artists that make telephone calls impersonating government disaster relief organizations. These scammers will call to solicit fake contributions and may claim to need personal bank account information. Never give out personal information or bank account information over the phone unless the caller's identity can be verified. To avoid being scammed after a disaster, residents should watch for the following red flags:

  • Callers may use a name that sounds like a well-known, reputable organization but cannot or will not answer basic questions about the charity.
  • The organization uses high-pressure tactics to obtain a donation.
  • The telephone solicitor insists on payment in cash.
  • A representative of the organization asks to pick up your donation instead of allowing you to mail it.

If a caller or visitor seems suspicious do not hire, sign contracts, or give money.  Instead, get as much information as possible and report your suspicion.  If you suspect that someone is trying to take advantage of you or the federal government, contact your local law enforcement agency or the Attorney General's Consumer Affairs division in Chicago at 800- 386-5438 and for hearing or speech impaired 800-964-3013 (TTY); or in Springfield 800-243-0618 or 877-844-5461 (TTY).

Check IDs to Prevent Fraud

Residents should be wary of door-to-door solicitors since con artists are often transients who will move quickly into a troubled area. Ask to see state or local permits or licenses of anyone approaching you about services related to the disaster. When possible use established local contractors recommended by people you know and trust.  Get receipts for all repair payments including cash. Do not make a check payable to a person other than the owner or the company name.

FEMA's Safeguards Against Fraud

At FEMA, a number of methods are used to detect fraud including an automated system that cross-checks information with other agencies. Applicants for disaster funds are also asked about insurance coverage to avoid the duplication of benefits. To verify qualified losses and damages, field inspections are conducted by FEMA contractors for every person who applies. These legitimate inspectors always carry identification badges.

Conducting audits and investigating possible fraudulent activities is a standard procedure in all federal disaster operations. For potential cases of fraud or misuse, refer to the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General (OIG) by e-mailing DHSOIGHOTLINE@dhs.gov, Fax: (202) 254-4292 or phone 800-323-8603.

For more information about Illinois disaster recovery and protection against fraud visit www.fema.gov, www.state.il.us/iema, and www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov.

FEMA coordinates the federal government's role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from all domestic disasters, whether natural or man-made, including acts of terror.

Last Modified: Monday, 17-Mar-2008 09:12:12