RALEIGH — Scammers may be posing as FEMA inspectors to try to use damage from Hurricane Matthew to rip off North Carolinians.
A North Carolina teacher reported getting a call this week from someone who identified herself as an inspector working for FEMA. The caller claimed she had an appointment to inspect a home for storm damage, but needed to track down the person who owned the home.
The so-called FEMA inspector then sent a text message, asking for help finding the homeowner. The teacher texted back that she had no storm damage to her home and suspected this was a scam. Most likely the scammer was trying to get her to reveal personal information or pay money.
Similar frauds have followed other disasters, including phony FEMA officials who show up at people’s homes. Con artists may also pose as insurance adjustors or utility workers. If your home has damage visible from the outside, you’re more likely to be a target of these scams.
To avoid fake FEMA scammers, remember:
Be wary of emails, phone calls, mail, text messages, or in-person visits from anyone you don’t recognize asking you about storm damage. Instead, contact the government agency, insurance company or utility service you need directly at a number or website you know is valid. You can contact FEMA at DisasterAssistance.gov or 800-621-3362.
Ask to see official photo ID. If someone comes to your door claiming to be from FEMA, another government agency, your insurance company or utility, ask to see their official photo ID. Do not be fooled by hats, clothing or vehicles with logos.
Protect your personal information. According to fraud warnings from FEMA, they will only ask for your Social Security number and bank account information when you register for assistance. Never give your credit card or bank account number to someone you don’t know who contacts you, no matter who they claim to be, and don’t share personal financial information by email or text message.
Avoid anyone who tries to collect a fee for disaster assistance. State or federal agencies like FEMA or the U.S. Small Business Administration will never charge you money to apply for relief. If you need to hire a private contractor to help with storm repairs or cleanup, never pay in full upfront.
FEMA inspectors will always have an official badge and will never ask for personal information or money, according to FEMA.
If you’re approached by a possible scammer, report it to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM within North Carolina (919-716-6000 if calling from an out of state number) or filing a complaint online at ncdoj.gov.
If you suspect that someone who shows up at your home is trying to commit fraud, call local law enforcement immediately.