Beware of FEMA-related scams, warns Napa County District Attorney Allison Haley.
Since the Northern California wildfires, the DA’s Office has received several reports from residents whose personal information, including Social Security numbers, was used to file fraudulent Federal Emergency Management Agency applications, according to a statement released Wednesday.
Some residents trying to apply for FEMA assistance found that someone had already applied under their name while others who hadn’t filed applications reported that FEMA-affiliated inspectors came by their homes to ask about their applications.
FEMA will not send inspectors to residences unless a claim for assistance has been filed, Haley said. If inspectors do come to your residence, they will not collect personal identifying information or bank account information at your residence. This information is collected only when someone fills out an application online or at a Local Assistance Center.
“All FEMA employees and contractors will have federally-issued photo identification badges, which you should request to see,” Haley said.
If someone shows up to your home to conduct a FEMA inspection and you have not filed an application for assistance, immediately contact the Department of Homeland Security, Office of the Inspector General at 800-323-8603 or oig.dhs.gov.
If you attempt to file an application for assistance, but find that someone has already filed an application in your name, call the Disaster Fraud Line at 866-720-5721. Contacting FEMA as soon as possible may prevent payment to the individual responsible for the fraud.
“If you have been a victim of this scam, you may also be a victim of identity theft,” Haley said. The DA’s Office advises victims to report the crime to police and ask that they issue a police report of identity theft. Victims should also report the fraud to the three major credit bureaus, Equifax at 800-525-6285, Experian at 888-397-3742, and TransUnion at 800-680-7289; and carefully review credit reports and consider a credit monitoring service or a credit freeze for protection against new accounts being opened in your name.