Warning: Don’t be a victim of disaster fraud

Historic City News wants our readers to be alert during this time when criminals tend to prey on the weaknesses of their victims.  To support your individual efforts, a task force comprised of local, state and federal agencies has been formed to combat illegal activity related to Hurricane Irma.

The National Center for Disaster Fraud, along with U.S. Attorney Offices in the Southern, Northern, and Middle District of Florida, urge residents and businesses to immediately report suspected fraudulent activity relating to recovery and cleanup operations, fake charities claiming to be providing relief for victims, individuals submitting false claims for disaster relief, and any other disaster fraud related activity.

“We will aggressively investigate and prosecute anyone who seeks to defraud or exploit the federal assistance programs established to help individuals, families, or businesses that have lost so much as a result of Hurricane Irma,” said Acting U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow for the Middle District of Florida.  “Our Office will continue to protect the rights of our honest citizens affected by this disaster and ensure that they receive the necessary public and charitable assistance they deserve. Our efforts to combat fraud associated with Hurricane Irma will supplement the outstanding and ongoing efforts by the State of Florida and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.”

In the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the National Center for Disaster Fraud has already received more than 400 complaints.  Examples of illegal activity being reported to the Center and law enforcement include:

  • Impersonation of federal law enforcement officials
  • Identity theft
  • Fraudulent submission of claims to insurance companies and the federal government
  • Fraudulent activity related to solicitations for donations and charitable giving
  • Fraudulent activity related to individuals and organizations promising high investment returns from profits from recovery and cleanup efforts
  • Price gouging
  • Theft, looting, and other violent crime

Readers who suspect fraud, waste, abuse, or allegations of mismanagement involving disaster relief operations, or believe they have been the victim of fraud from a person or organization soliciting relief funds on behalf of disaster victims, should contact the National Disaster Fraud Hotline toll free at (866) 720-5721. The telephone lines are staffed by live operators, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can also email your tip to disaster@leo.gov.

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