Jeanne’s Va. Victims Warned to Beware of Fraud

October 23, 2004

Victims of Tropical Depression Jeanne are in danger of being victimized again, this time by scam artists, disaster officials say.

No one will ask for a flood victim’s personal information, including Social Security numbers, until the victim registers with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said Michael Cline, the state coordinating officer for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM).

“Individuals must begin the aid process themselves by registering with FEMA,” said Cline. “That is the only way to apply for federal or state assistance.”

“People should not give their Social Security numbers to unsolicited callers. And notification of a grant will always come by mail,” Cline said. “We don’t want people who need help to be exploited by scam artists.”

“Every disaster has con artists who try to take advantage of disaster victims,” added Marianne Jackson, FEMA’s federal coordinating officer. “Be careful about who you give information to or let in your homes.”

For example, damage inspectors may visit flood victims at their home or business after they register with FEMA, she said. All FEMA inspectors will have official ID, Jackson said, and no flood victim should let anyone inspect their property without first asking for identification.

There is never a fee for FEMA services, she said. “We’ve had reports of people claiming to be from FEMA offering to speed up the process in exchange for money,” Jackson said. “That’s just not possible.”

President Bush signed a major disaster declaration for the cities of Roanoke and Salem, and the counties of Alleghany, Craig, Giles, Montgomery, Floyd, Patrick and Roanoke on Oct. 18. The declaration begins the process of releasing federal aid to homeowners, renters and business owners who suffered losses in the flood.

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