Thousands of people in Georgia have applied for help to FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) because of Hurricane Irma and some people are already receiving financial payments.
But it seems some crooks may be trying to help themselves to those federal dollars designed for storm victims.
We heard from a Savannah woman who was taken by surprise after receiving a letter saying it was a follow up to her FEMA application. The letter came from the Small Business Administration (SBA). The SBA said it automatically receives information on FEMA applicants and contacts those applicants because they often qualify for help from the SBA as well.
But again, this woman never applied to FEMA at all. She contacted the FEMA fraud alert number and found out that someone had used her personal information but a different email and a different bank account number. Had this person received help, it may have been through an electronic deposit into that account. (Again, a crook, not our viewer.)
She simply wanted to get out the word that people should be aware and said “because of all the big data breaches like the one at Equifax, a lot of our information may have been stolen.”
FEMA told us that those who are concerned can apply for benefits in person at a Recovery Center. In Savannah, that is at the Southwest Chatham Library. (Applications must be in by November 14.)
FEMA also told us that despite concerns about fraud, that online applications are still the fastest way to receive benefits.
However, we’re told if you are concerned about any potential fraud, you can contact FEMA:
Email: FEMA-OCSO-Tipline@fema.dhs.gov or StopFEMAFraud@fema.dhs.gov
Call the FEMA Fraud Branch tip line at (866-223-0814) or the FEMA Fraud Branch fax: (540) 504-2889
FEMA Fraud and Internal Investigation Division
C Street SW Mail Stop 3005
Washington, DC 20472-3005