Be vigilant for post-disaster fraud practices | News | The Press and Standard
by The Press and Standard | October 25, 2016 11:55 am
State and federal recovery officials encourage South Carolina 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 Hurricane Matthew and the resultant storms and flooding.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency encourages survivors to be especially vigilant for these common post-disaster fraud practices:
Fraudulent building contractors.
When hiring a contractor:
• Use 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.
Survivors will be asked to provide their Social Security number and banking information only when registering for FEMA assistance. They should never give this information to contractors or to other individuals claiming to be from FEMA and who do not have proper FEMA photo identification.
FEMA does not endorse any commercial businesses, products or services.
Phony housing inspectors:
Homeowners and registered FEMA applicants may be vulnerable to phony housing inspectors claiming to represent FEMA or the U.S. Small Business Administration.
• Ask to see the inspector’s identification badge. A FEMA or SBA shirt or jacket is not proof of someone’s affiliation with the government. Federal employees and contracted housing inspectors carry official photo identification.
• Ask the inspector to recite your nine-digit FEMA application number. If he’s legitimate, he will know it. FEMA inspectors NEVER require banking or other personal information.
• The job of FEMA-contracted housing inspectors is to verify damage. Inspectors do not hire or endorse contractors to fix homes or recommend repairs. They do not determine eligibility for assistance.
Fake offers of state or federal aid, phony charges for services:
FEMA does not charge fees of any kind, nor does it accept donations. FEMA receives its funding from the American taxpayers.
• Beware of visits, calls or e-mails — claiming to be from FEMA or the State of South Carolina — asking for an applicant’s Social Security number, bank account number or other sensitive information. Avoid scam artists who promise a disaster grant and ask for cash deposits or advance payments in full.
• Federal and state workers do not solicit or accept money. FEMA and SBA staff never charge applicants for disaster assistance, inspections or help in filling out applications.
Bogus pleas for post-disaster donations:
Unscrupulous solicitors may play on the emotions of disaster survivors. Disaster aid solicitations may arrive by phone, email, letter or face-to-face visits.
• Verify legitimate solicitations by asking for the charity’s exact name, street address, phone number and web address, then phone the charity directly and confirm that the person asking for funds is an employee or volunteer.
• Do not reply to an e-mail, text or pop-up message that asks for personal or financial information.
• Do not pay donations with cash.
• Request a receipt with the charity’s name, street address, phone number.
Many legitimate organizations need donations. To find out more about donating to help hurricane survivors in South Carolina, visit yourfoundation.org/community-impact/one-sc-fund-sc-flood-relief/.
Disaster-related price gouging:
Unscrupulous businesses thrive on the desperation of survivors of disaster. South Carolina residents should be on the lookout for price gouging at gas stations, hotels and other businesses and services offering products to those whose lives have been impacted by Hurricane Matthew.
If you suspect fraud, call the FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721. If you are the victim of a home repair scam or price gouging, call the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs at 844-835-5322 or visit consumer.sc.gov and click on “REPORT A SCAM.”
For more information, visit the South Carolina Emergency Management Division at scemd.org/recovery-section/ia .