How N.Y. Sandy survivors can protect against fraud
The following excerpts are from an article published by Fema outlining ways to protect yourself from being a target in a scam or fraud related to SuperStorm Sandy. This information is important for everyone who is rebuilding from Sandy as well as others looking to make monetary contributions to help out the victims of Sandy.
It is important to know that:
- Federal or state workers never solicit or accept money for disaster assistance, inspections or to fill out applications.
- Never give money, your Social Security number or your banking information to anyone claiming to be a state or federal worker, or to someone who claims they can speed up the disaster assistance application process – whether by phone, e-mail or in-person.
- Only supply your Social Security number and banking information when registering for FEMA assistance. To register, call 800-621-3362 (Voice, 7-1-1/Relay) or TTY 800-462-7585. You may also register online at DisasterAssistance.gov or via smartphone or tablet at m.fema.gov.
Be suspicious if a contractor:
- Demands cash or full payment up front.
- Demands you sign something you haven’t had time to review.
- Urges you to borrow from a specific lender or tries to act as an intermediary between you and a lender.
To ensure a contractor is legitimate and you get the best work for your money, follow these guidelines:
- Get written estimates and reliable references from at least three licensed contractors.
- Ask to see proof of a contractor’s license and building permit.
- Compare quotes, repayment schedules and rates. Make sure the estimates include cost information for labor and materials.
- Demand that contractors carry general liability insurance and workers’ compensation.
- Read the fine print of any estimate or agreement before signing.
- Do not sign over an insurance settlement check to a contractor.
When donating to disaster-related charities
- Call the charity directly to verify the solicitor is a legitimate volunteer or employee.
- Only pay by check in case funds must be stopped later.
- Request a receipt with the charity’s contact information.
- Visit fema.gov/volunteer-donate-responsibly for a list of major nonprofits that provide assistance to communities impacted by disaster
Additional steps to protect against fraud
If you suspect someone is perpetrating fraud, call the FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721.
Consumers in New York State encountering these issues may also report them to the New York State Department of State using the online Consumer Complaint Form or by calling their toll-free hotline at 800-697-1220.