PEMA, FEMA Officials Warn Flooded Residents and Business Owners to Beware of Fraud

April 27, 2005

State and federal recovery officials advise those in Pennsylvania affected by the April rain and flooding to be aware of anyone who claims to be able to register them for disaster assistance for a fee or after they collect personal information.

Callers claiming to be state or FEMA officials may direct residents to give them a “processing fee” or to open a bank account and deposit the fee. In the past callers have instructed the disaster victim to supply them with the bank account number and authorize the caller to electronically withdraw funds from the account. In return, the caller promises the victim a grant from the state to cover personal property losses due to the disaster.

“Unfortunately, unscrupulous people try to take advantage of others when they are most vulnerable,” said State Coordinating Officer Adrian King Jr. “We encourage residents to be wary and to ask for identification of anyone claiming to be a disaster recovery official.”

There is never a “processing fee” to register for assistance, or a request to authorize the use of funds, state and federal officials said. Anyone who receives a call like this is urged to hang up and report the incident by calling the Fraud Hotline at 1-800-323-8603.

“The only way to register with FEMA is to call the toll-free application number,” said Tom Davies, federal coordinating officer. “It is both an efficient and secure application process.” The application number is 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). It is in operation from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week.

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