Seniors: Don’t Get Targeted for Disaster Insurance Scams

Release date:

December 5, 2016

Release Number:

DR-4283-FL NR 045

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – After natural disasters con men and scammers often target vulnerable communities—such as those with physical impairments and the elderly. These fraudsters often offer to speed up the insurance, disaster assistance or building-permit process for a fee.

If you suspect fraud or suspicious activity call your local police department, Office of the Florida Attorney General at 866-9-NO-SCAM or the FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721.

If you have question regarding insurance, insurance adjusters, or to report a fraudulent insurance adjuster or insurance scammer contact the Florida Department of Financial Services, Division

of Consumer Services at 877-693-5236 (711/VRS-Video Relay Service, out of state callers

850-413-3089) or the FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721.

Scam attempts can be made by phone, mail, via email, or in person. Con-artists are creative and resourceful, so survivors are encouraged to remain alert, ask questions and require identification when someone claims to be an official or representative of a government agency.

The license of any Florida insurance agent or adjuster can be verified via the Florida Department of Financial Service’s licensee search website at: myfloridalicense.com/wl11.asp.

FEMA and SBA staffers will never charge applicants for disaster assistance, inspections or for assisting individuals to fill out applications. If in doubt, do not give out your personal information.

Be on the lookout for these common post-disaster scams:

Phony housing inspectors: If home damage is visible from the street, an owner/applicant may be especially vulnerable to fraudulent housing inspectors who claim to represent FEMA or the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Applicants should ALWAYS:

  • Ask to see the inspector’s identification badge. A FEMA or SBA shirt or jacket is not proof of someone’s affiliation with the government. Federal employees and contractors carry official photo identification.

  • FEMA inspectors will already have applicants’ nine digit registration number.

  • FEMA inspectors will never require banking or other personal information.

  • Floridians should also be aware that FEMA housing inspectors only verify damage.

  • FEMA does not hire or endorse specific contractors to fix homes or recommend repairs nor do they determine your eligibility for assistance.

Fraudulent building contractors: Disasters also attract fraudulent contractors who offer to begin work immediately and request a cash advance payment. When hiring a contractor:

  • Residents should only use licensed local contractors who are backed by reliable references and get written estimates from at least three contractors that include the cost

of labor and materials. They should also read the fine print.

  • Residents should make sure their contractors carry general liability insurance and workers’ compensation. If he or she is not insured, you may be liable for accidents that occur on your property.

  • Don’t pay more than half the costs of repairs upfront.

Bogus pleas for post-disaster donations: Dishonest solicitors may play on the emotions of disaster survivors. These solicitations may come by phone, email, letter or face-to-face.

  • Residents should verify legitimate solicitations by asking for the charity’s exact name, street address, phone number and website address, then phone the charity directly

and confirm that the person asking for funds is an employee or volunteer.

  • Residents should not pay donations with cash.

  • Residents should request a receipt with the charity’s name, street address, and phone number.

For more information on Florida’s disaster recovery, visit fema.gov/disaster/4283, twitter.com/femaregion4, facebook.com/FEMA, and fema.gov/blog, floridadisaster.org or #FLRecovers. For imagery, video, graphics and releases, see www.fema.gov/Hurricane-Matthew.

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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 800-621-3362 (voice, 711 or video relay service). TTY users can call 800-462-7585.

The U.S. Small Business Administration is the federal government’s primary source of money to help business of all sizes, private non-profit organizations, homeowners and renters rebuild and recover after a disaster. SBA low-interest disaster loans repair and replace property losses not fully compensated by insurance and do not duplicate benefits of other agencies.

Download fema.gov/mobile-app to locate open shelters and disaster recovery centers, receive severe weather alerts, safety tips and much more.

Last Updated:

July 8, 2017 - 11:45

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