PEARL, Miss. – (RealEstateRama) — Mississippians whose homes were damaged in the recent storms and flooding may encounter people attempting to cheat them by posing as inspectors, government officials, volunteers or contractors. These people may try to obtain personal information or collect payment for disaster assistance or repairs.
Please keep in mind that Federal Emergency Management Agency employees DO NOT solicit or accept money from disaster survivors. Many legitimate disaster assistance employees may visit your property such as insurance agents, damage inspectors and Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, FEMA and U.S. Small Business Administration staff.
Here are some tips to remember to safeguard against fraud:
- Ask to see ID badges. All FEMA representatives will have a laminated photo ID. A FEMA shirt or jacket is not proof of identity. If you are unsure or uncomfortable with anyone you encounter, please contact local law enforcement.
- Safeguard personal information. Be cautious when giving personal information such as Social Security or bank account numbers to anyone. FEMA will only request an applicant’s bank account numbers during the initial registration process. However FEMA inspectors will require verification of identity.
- Beware of people going door-to-door. People knocking on doors at damaged homes or phoning homeowners claiming to be building contractors could be con artists, especially if they ask for personal information or solicit money.
- Federal workers do not solicit or accept money. FEMA and SBA staff never charge applicants for disaster assistance, inspections or help to fill out applications. FEMA inspectors verify damages, but do not involve themselves in any aspect of the repair nor recommend any contractor.
- FEMA Disaster Survivor Assistance teams may be in your community providing information and assisting people in registering with FEMA or updating their files. The teams coordinate their activities with local emergency managers and make local law enforcement agencies aware of their presence. The teams always consist of at least two people, and may include employees of MEMA as well as FEMA. They will always be wearing FEMA or MEMA shirts and laminated photo IDs. Disaster Survivor Assistance teams never ask for or accept payment for their services.
Always use licensed and bonded contractors and ask for credentials. Use Mississippi contractors if you can. You can verify a Mississippi contractor’s license online at msboc.us. Never pay for anything in advance of work being done. If you have a complaint about anyone soliciting your business, contact the Consumer Protection Division of the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office toll-free number at 800-281-4418 or 601-359-3680.
If you have knowledge of fraud, waste, abuse or allegations of mismanagement involving disaster relief operations, call the FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721.
Disaster survivors in Bolivar, Clarke, Coahoma, Forrest, George, Greene, Jones, Marion, Panola, Pearl River, Perry, Quitman, Sunflower, Tunica, Washington and Wayne counties may be eligible for FEMA’s Individual Assistance program.
Survivors in those counties can register for FEMA Individual Assistance online at DisasterAssistance.govor by calling the FEMA helpline at 800-621-FEMA (3362), which is video relay service accessible. People who are deaf, hard of hearing or who have difficulty speaking may call TTY 800-462-7585. Lines are open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. local time until further notice.
FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.
Disaster recovery assistance is available without regard to race, color, religion, nationality, sex, age, disability, English proficiency or economic status. If you or someone you know has been discriminated against, call FEMA toll-free at 800-621-FEMA (3362). If you have a speech disability or hearing loss and use a TTY, call 800-462-7585 directly; if you use 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS), call 800-621-3362.
FEMA’s temporary housing assistance and grants for public transportation expenses, medical and dental expenses, and funeral and burial expenses do not require individuals to apply for an SBA loan. However, applicants who receive SBA loan applications must submit them to SBA loan officers to be eligible for assistance that covers personal property, vehicle repair or replacement, and moving and storage expenses.