Va. Disaster Victims Warned of Fraud Threat

September 8, 2004

Victims of Tropical Depression Gaston are reportedly in danger of being victimized again, this time by scam artists, disaster officials warned. One person reported getting a call saying he would get a disaster grant, but “First I need your Social Security number.”

“Individuals must begin the aid process themselves by registering with FEMA. That is the only way to apply for federal or state assistance,” Michael Cline, Virginia Department of Emergency Management state coordinating officer for the disaster, said. “People should not give their Social Security numbers to callers they don’t know. And notification of a grant will always come by mail.”

“We don’t want people who need help to be exploited by scam artists,” Cline added.

Residents who suffered damage are warned to be alert for other types of fraud as well. “Every disaster has its share of con artists trying to take advantage of disaster victims, so be careful who you give information to or let into your home,” Cline advised.

For example, people who register at the FEMA telephone number may be visited by inspectors asking to inspect damage to their homes or businesses. All valid inspectors will have official ID to identify themselves. According to Cline, individuals should never let anyone inspect their home without first asking for identification.

President Bush declared a major disaster for the cities of Colonial Heights, Hopewell, Petersburg and Richmond, and the counties of Chesterfield, Dinwiddie, Hanover, Henrico and Prince George on Sept. 3. The declaration triggered the provision of federal aid to disaster-stricken homeowners, renters and business owners.

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