The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA) are raising awareness that scam artists could be at work in the U.S. Virgin Islands, targeting survivors of hurricanes Irma and Maria who are seeking federal disaster assistance.
While disasters always bring out the best in most people, they can bring out the worst in some. Survivors should remain vigilant at all times to keep from falling victim to unscrupulous individuals.
These are a few guidelines for self-protection or the protection of someone else from disaster fraud:
Federal workers will never contact you requesting that you provide your banking information or Social Security number in person, over the phone, by text or by email. If asked for this information, do not provide it. This is a scam, not dealing with legitimate recovery personnel.
FEMA and other federal workers do not ask for or accept money. They will never charge applicants for disaster assistance, home inspections or help filling out applications. Stay alert for false promises to speed up the insurance, disaster assistance or building permit process – and do not give anyone money for such assistance.
In person, always ask to see a FEMA employee’s laminated photo ID badge. FEMA housing inspectors, Disaster Survivor Assistance and Disability Integration teams are currently working in impacted communities across the Virgin Islands. If they do not show you their badge when they approach you, ask to see it.
FEMA and federal employees do not make copies of their badges to send to disaster survivors as proof of identity in advance of a visit. Do not expect to receive a photocopied badge from a legitimate FEMA employee. If sent one, know that the sender is an imposter.
A FEMA shirt or jacket is not proof of identity. All FEMA representatives, including its contracted inspectors, will have the laminated photo ID.
If approached via phone, email or in person by someone claiming to represent a charity helping disaster survivors, ask for the charity’s exact name, street address, phone number and Web address, then contact the charity directly and confirm that the person asking for funds is an employee or volunteer. Always take steps to ensure the charity is legitimate before giving it money, and request a receipt with the charity’s name, street address, phone number and Web address if applicable. Legitimate nonprofit agencies routinely provide receipts for tax purposes.
If unsure or uncomfortable with anyone claiming to be an emergency management official or charity worker, do not give out personal information; then report the incident.
If suspicious of fraud, contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud’s hotline at 866-720-5721 or email the organization at firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more about the National Center for Disaster Fraud at www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud.
People can also report any suspicious activity to any one of the Virgin Islands Police Departments.