Telephone Scams Target Hurricane Katrina Victims

September 26, 2005

While disaster victims are working to get their lives back to normal, con artists are reportedly busy with telephone scams designed to further traumatize those who have already suffered great losses.

Officials from the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness are warning people to be especially alert to anyone contacting them by telephone claiming to be a government official or FEMA representative.

Recent reports of fraud include con-artists calling victims asking for personal information such as Social Security and bank account numbers so they can get them money for repairs or rent.

Officials advise disaster victims never to give Social Security numbers, personal bank account numbers, or other financial information to anyone who calls on the telephone or contacts them in person. FEMA does not call victims for that information.

When people call FEMA to register for disaster assistance, the registration operator will ask for the following information:

* The address of the damaged property;
* A current address and telephone number where the applicant can be reached;
* Social Security number;
* Bank account information for electronic funds transfer;
* Your household’s approximate gross income at the time of the hurricane;
* Information on your insurance coverage, particularly flood insurance.

If anyone suspects fraudulent activity, contact the Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General hotline, 1-800-323-8603, or the Louisiana Office of Attorney General, Consumer Protection Section, 1-800-351-4889.

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