LINCOLN — Survivors of the March 9 to April 14 floods and storms applying for assistance from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are advised to exercise caution with personal information during the disaster recovery period. With an increased charitable and federal presence, scam artists and identity thieves may attempt to take advantage of survivors.
Common post-disaster fraudulent practices include over the phone and in person requests for sensitive information and fake offers of federal aid.
Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and FEMA urge survivors to safeguard against fraud by heeding the following recommendations:
• Ask to see ID badges. All FEMA representatives are required by law to present a laminated photo ID. A FEMA hat, shirt or jacket is not proof of identity.
• Federal workers do not solicit or accept money. FEMA staff never charge applicants for disaster assistance, inspections or help to fill out applications. FEMA inspectors verify damage, but do not involve themselves in any aspect of the repair nor recommend any contractor.
• Verify a home inspection by requesting to see the FEMA employee's identification badge or by calling the FEMA Helpline at 1-800-621-3362 to confirm an appointment. The job of FEMA housing inspector is to verify damage. Inspectors do not hire or endorse specific contractors to fix homes or recommend repairs. They do not determine eligibility for assistance.
• FEMA Disaster Survivor Assistance teams may be in your community providing information and assisting people in registering with FEMA or updating their files. The teams coordinate their activities with local emergency managers and make local law enforcement agencies aware of their presence. The teams always consist of at least two people and may include employees of NEMA as well as FEMA. They will always be wearing FEMA or NEMA shirts and laminated photo IDs. Disaster Survivor Assistance teams never ask for or accept payment for their services.
• Verify charitable solicitations by asking for the charity's exact name, street address, phone number and web address. Phone the charity directly and confirm that the person asking for funds is an employee or volunteer before donating.
If you suspect fraudulent activity or question the validity of a request for identifiable information, please report the individual(s) to local law enforcement, dial NEMA at 402-471-7421, call FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline 866-720-5721 or visit www.protectthegoodlife.nebraska.gov/file-consumer-complaint.