The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) alongside the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency are warning residents of Jackson and Jasper counties to be on the alert for fraud schemes as tornado recovery efforts continue.
Residents of the two Mississippi counties are urged to be aware that con artists may try to steal personal information. In some cases, they may try to apply for FEMA assistance using names, addresses, and social security numbers they have stolen from survivors.
FEMA is calling on residents to be on the lookout for:
- People claiming to be FEMA housing inspectors or otherwise claiming they work for FEMA may call you or visit your home. Do not give out personal information or banking information. FEMA inspectors already have your FEMA application number. They are not authorized to collect personal financial information.
- If a FEMA inspector calls, and you did not submit a FEMA application, your information may have been used to create a FEMA application. Please tell the inspector you did not apply for FEMA assistance. The inspector will submit a request to stop processing of the application.
- If you receive a letter from FEMA, and you did not apply for assistance, please call the FEMA helpline at
(800) 621-3362. FEMA will stop processing the application.
- Report suspicious activity and fraud attempts
Scam artists are likely to be active in Jackson and Jasper counties. FEMA is encouraging residents to be suspicious if they encounter:
- High-pressure sales or scare tactics.
- Lack of references.
- People with no permanent place of business.
- Those seeking a handshake agreement or resisting giving a written estimate.
- Demands for cash for unusually large down payments or for advanced full payments.
- Special deals or extremely low bids.
FEMA is advising residents to consider the following when selecting a contractor:
- Reputable contractors will provide a written contract detailing the scope of work, the general time frame of when the work will be done, and the cost of the project.
- Ask contractors for references from past customers.
- Ask about their insurance coverage and verify that coverage. Contractors should have disability and workers’ compensation insurance. If they don’t, you may be liable for accidents on your property.
- Make sure contractors have the proper licensing and are bonded.
- Make sure contractors obtain the necessary permits to do the job.
- Take pictures of your contractor, their business card and driver’s license, and their vehicle and license plate.
- Do not sign documents that give a contractor the right to your insurance claims. Do not sign insurance checks over to a contractor. Get an invoice from your contractor and pay them directly, preferably with a credit card; in this way, the charges may be disputed, if necessary.
- Don’t sign completion papers or make a final payment until the work is done and has been done correctly. Inspect the work to be sure it is done correctly and as agreed.
- Choose a good contractor.
FEMA does not certify contractors. FEMA does recommend using a local contractor, someone who is known in the community. To find accredited Mississippi contractors, contact the Better Business Bureau in Mississippi here. To find out if a potential contractor is licensed to work in Mississippi, contact the Mississippi State Board of Contractors.
One who believes they are the victim of a scam is asked to report it immediately to a local police or sheriff’s department. Suspected fraudulent activity can also be reported to the FEMA Fraud Branch by email at StopFEMAFraud@fema.dhs.gov, by fax at (202) 212-4926, or by mail — FEMA Fraud and Internal Investigation Division, 400 C Street SW Mail Stop 3005, Washington, DC 20472-3005.