AUSTIN, Texas – State and federal recovery officials encourage Texans to watch for and report any suspicious activity or potential fraud from scam artists, identity thieves and other criminals. Also, be aware FEMA does not endorse any commercial businesses, products or services.
FEMA encourages survivors as well as local residents and businesses 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.
Bogus pleas for post-disaster donations. Often, unscrupulous solicitors may play on the emotions of disaster survivors, residents and business owners. Be aware that disaster aid solicitations may arrive by phone, email, letter or face-to-face visits. To ensure a charity is legitimate:
• Ask for the requestor’s name as well as the charity’s exact name, street address, phone number and website address – then call the charity directly to confirm the person asking for funds is an employee or volunteer.
• Whether making a donation by cash or with a credit card, request a receipt that includes the charity’s name, street address and phone number.
• The five-to-six digit numbers known as short codes make it difficult to tell who is on the receiving end of a text. A legitimate charity will not ask you to send personal information or a credit card number by text.
Fake offers of state or federal aid: Beware of visits, calls or e-mails – from people claiming to be from FEMA or the State of Texas – asking for an applicant’s Social Security number, bank account number or other sensitive information.
• Don’t fall for scam artists who promise a disaster grant and ask for large cash deposits or advance payments in full.
• Federal and state workers do not solicit or accept money. FEMA and U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) staff never charge applicants for disaster assistance, inspections or help in filling out applications.
Phony housing inspectors. Homeowners and registered FEMA applicants should watch out for phony housing inspectors claiming to represent FEMA or the SBA.
• Inspectors already have each applicant’s nine-digit registration number and a FEMA inspector will not ask for this number.
• FEMA inspectors NEVER require banking or other personal information.
• The job of FEMA housing inspectors 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.
If you suspect fraud, call the FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721.If you are the victim of or are the victim of a home repair scam or price gouging, call the Office of the Texas Attorney General at 800-252-8011.