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Crooks and Scammers Will Hit You When You’re Down: How to Protect Yourself

Photo courtesy of MEMA

PEARL, Miss. – If you were impacted in the recent storms and flooding, you may encounter people attempting to cheat you 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.

Remember: MEMA and FEMA workers do not accept or ask for money. 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 protect yourself from 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.

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 atDisasterAssistance.gov or 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.

For more information on Mississippi’s flood recovery, go to fema.gov/disaster/4268or visit the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency site at msema.org.

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