N.Y. Residents Warned of Scams in Seeking Disaster Assistance Following Storms

May 25, 2005

Persons falsely claiming to be government recovery officials in New York have been knocking on doors in disaster-affected areas asking people for large sums of money to register them for disaster assistance, according to reports received by officials overseeing the recovery efforts.

“The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will never ask you for money in order to process your registration for federal and state assistance,” Federal Coordinating Officer Marianne Jackson said. “Also, all disaster recovery officials should display proper credentials. If you do not see it, ask to see the proper identification.”

The only way to apply for federal and state disaster assistance is to call the FEMA registration number at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362), TTY, 1-800-462-7585, or register online at www.fema.gov.

When an individual calls the FEMA registration number, the FEMA operator will collect certain information such as social security numbers, bank and other personal information, during the initial call and provide the caller with an application number. Jackson emphasized that individuals should not give bank account information to anyone who may call on the telephone.

“It is an unpleasant fact that disasters sometimes bring out scam artists, price gougers and other unsavory figures,” said State Coordinating Officer James Tuffey, Director of the New York State Emergency Management Office. “Anyone who feels that they have encountered a scam or other questionable service practice while attempting to get disaster assistance from the early April storms is urged to contact their local police department or county sheriff’s office.”

Anyone in doubt about the authenticity of a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) representative also may call the toll-free teleregistration number at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) and select the helpline option. For those with a speech or hearing impairment call 1-800-462-7585.

New York residents who may encounter a suspicious request can call the New York State Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Frauds and Protection at 1-800-771-7755. Anyone with knowledge of fraud, waste or abuse involving FEMA contracts, programs or personnel may call the FEMA Office of Inspector General Fraud Hotline at 1-800-323-8603. The hotline is in operation 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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