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Make sure the official knocking on your door is, in fact, a FEMA inspector

MGN Online

Sometimes a disaster brings out the best in people, and sometimes it brings out the worst. The Charlotte County Sheriff’s office is warning residents of the potential for scammers who might appear as federal officials knocking on your door.

As residents dig out from the muck after the hurricane and various officials, including FEMA inspectors, visit storm-damaged neighborhoods, the Charlotte County Sheriff's office is warning residents to be aware of potential scammers posing as FEMA officials.

"They're doing an inspection of the damage so they might show up, not necessarily because you filed for a claim. They might just be researching the damage in the area," said Claudette Smith with Charlotte County Sheriff's Office. "However, if you did file a claim with FEMA, an inspector will come to your home and they will be able to show you a badge and identification."

Smith also encourages residents to be sure that the person knocking on your door is actually who they say they are, especially because you don’t want to give your personal information out to just anyone.

"A lot of times people are going to take your information to file claims on your behalf, so then it looks like you already have a claim out there, and you do not," she said. "So, you're going to ask for their FEMA employee badge and identification and their name. You can then take that information to verify if they are a employee of FEMA and if there is a pending inspection for your home. Because you don't want somebody who has a fake FEMA badge to possibly show up to your home to victimize you."

Smith also warns that even though an individual has a shirt or a jacket that says FEMA on, that does not constitute an official ID. She urges you to ask for an official badge from that official at your door.

"We always try to stay ahead of the trends and we don't want our residents to fall victim to these scammers." Claudette Smith with Charlotte County Sheriff's Office

As of yet, Smith says no one has attempted this type of fraud.

"We always try to stay ahead of the trends and we don't want our residents to fall victim to these scammers."

If you DO receive a letter from FEMA, the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office added, you should pay attention to it.

"The letter is part of the inspection process and will have the inspector’s name and contact information. If you applied to FEMA and you expected the inspector to visit, contact the inspector to continue the process. Do not share the inspector’s contact information on social media.

If you find a FEMA inspector’s letter on your door and you did not apply for assistance with FEMA, contact FEMA or the FEMA Fraud Investigations and Inspections Division at 866-223-0814 or email StopFEMAFraud@fema.dhs.gov. The FEMA inspector was following FEMA inspection guidelines and protocols. You may contact the inspector directly and explain that you did not apply. The inspector will then report what transpired.

You can verify you have a pending inspection by calling the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362 or video relay service (VRS). You can also visit DisasterAssistance.gov and select “Review Status.” You are encouraged to verify your address is correct and to provide specific directions to your property.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency asks that you report any suspicious activity to the disaster fraud hotline at 866-720-5721.

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Pam James