SACRAMENTO – When natural disasters occur, it is common to find people who want to take advantage of survivors by posing as official disaster aid workers or as relatives trying to help survivors complete their applications.
FEMA advises survivors to be aware of fraud and scams. FEMA also encourages them to report any suspicious activity or potential fraud from scam artists, identity thieves and other criminals.
Survivors should also be aware that this kind of situation doesn’t happen only at the beginning of the response to the disaster when people might be more vulnerable. It can happen anytime. It is important to know that FEMA does not endorse any commercial businesses, products or services.
Residents in Fresno, Los Angeles, Madera, Mendocino, Napa, San Bernardino, San Diego, Shasta, Siskiyou and Sonoma counties should be aware of common tactics used by these criminals, such as phone calls from people claiming to work for FEMA.
The caller might ask for the survivor’s Social Security number and income or banking information. Giving out this type of information can help an unscrupulous person make a false claim for assistance or commit identity theft.
FEMA encourages survivors and business owners to be vigilant for these common post-disaster fraud practices:
Housing inspectors claiming to represent FEMA
- Be cautious if somebody asks for your nine-digit registration number. FEMA inspectors will never ask for this information. They already have it in their records.
- Don’t give anyone your banking information. FEMA inspectors never require banking or other personal information such as a Social Security number.
Fake offers of local or federal aid
- Don’t trust someone who asks for money. Federal and local disaster workers do not solicit or accept money. FEMA and U.S. Small Business Administration staff never charge applicants for disaster assistance, inspections or help in filling out applications.
- Don’t believe anyone who promises a disaster grant and asks for large cash deposits or advance payments in full.
Fraudulent building contractors
- Use licensed or verified local contractors backed by reliable references.
- To find licensed certified contractors check with the California Department of Consumer Affairs.
- Don’t pay more than half the costs of repairs in advance.
- Demand that contractors detail the job to be done with guarantees in writing.
If you suspect fraud, you may call the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721.
You also may report fraud by a business by filing an online complaint with the California Office of the Attorney General’s Public Inquiry Unit at www.oag.ca.gov/report or via their mailing address at:
Office of the Attorney General
Public Inquiry Unit
P.O. Box 944255
Sacramento, CA 94244-2550
If you have questions, you may also contact the Public Inquiry Unit at 916-210-6276, but complaints must be submitted via the online complaint form or via mail.
For the latest information on wildfire recovery, visit https://www.fema.gov/disaster/4569 and follow the FEMA Region 9 Twitter account at https://twitter.com/femaregion9.