The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency (RIEMA), and the Office of the Rhode Island Attorney General urge Rhode Islanders affected by Hurricane Sandy to be mindful of scams and other fraudulent activity during recovery efforts. Officials are particularly concerned about individuals pretending to be employees of FEMA, the Small Business Administration (SBA), or other agencies.
"We urge people to be careful and vigilant as they recover from this disaster," said James Russo, FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer in charge of the recovery efforts. "Unfortunately, in these situations, some people prey on others, taking advantage of their misfortunes. We urge people to be suspicious of anyone requesting personal information, anyone without identification claiming to be from FEMA or another federal agency, and anyone asking for money."
"During times of crisis, people tend to let their guard down to someone offering a helping hand. Don't let that helping hand steal you blind," said Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin. "FEMA, the SBA and RIEMA are here to provide answers and help homeowners and businesses through this recovery, at no cost. The best way to protect yourself, your home and your business from con artists is to know what to look for and report any suspicious activity."
To safeguard against disaster-related fraud, officials remind people of the following precautions:
- Ask for proper identification. Always ask to see the laminated, official photo identification card all federal employees are required to carry. If an individual does not have a card, they are not official representatives. (A FEMA or SBA shirt or jacket is not absolute proof of someone's affiliation with an agency.) Rhode Islanders should also be aware that they may be visited by more than one official inspector or representative.
- FEMA representatives are prohibited from accepting money. FEMA does not charge for any programs or services it offers. FEMA inspectors assess damage; however, the agency does not hire or endorse specific contractors. FEMA inspectors do not make unannounced visits—they will always make an appointment ahead of time.
- Safeguard personal information. If anyone requests personal information outside of the official FEMA registration process, do not provide it. (Anyone who registered for FEMA assistance receives a registration number, and officials from FEMA or SBA will use that number to access individual claim information.)
- Donate to recognized charities. For a list of charities accepting donations, call 211.
If you suspect fraud or illegal activities, report it to your local police department or the Office of Attorney General's Consumer Protection Unity at (401) 274-4400.