Now that a federal disaster declaration is in place for a half-dozen flooded western Iowa counties, federal officials fear scammers will turn up among the water-logged homes.
Dave Lentell, spokesman for the U.S. Small Business Administration, says Iowans need to be on guard for con artists who are posing as federal workers.
Lentell says, “We’ve seen, in some of the tornado-damaged areas this year, individuals asking for non-refundable fees up to $450 to help disaster victims fill out their loan application or $1000 to verify losses and file loan applications.”
Iowa homeowners and business owners with flood damage need to be alert for this kind of rip-off, as Lentell says those scammers are bilking people for a service that can be provided at no charge.
“We want Iowans to be on the lookout for these types of things because there are assistance agencies and organizations that can help them do these types of things for free,” Lentell says. “Anybody that’s offering to do these for you for a fee is very likely trying to scam you.”
He says federal agencies involved in disaster recovery will never ask for a fee to file an application for financial assistance or to inspect damaged property. Lentell says it’s wise to be wary of anyone who knocks on the door.
“If you’re concerned whether or not that individual is an SBA or federal employee, ask to see a federal ID,” Lentell says. “They are required to carry one when they go door-to-door to prove who they are. If you suspect someone is posing as a federal agent or even a local agent, or encounter what you think is a fraudulent situation, we urge Iowans to contact their local law enforcement officials.”
There’s also a 24-7, toll-free National Disaster Fraud Hotline: 866-720-5721. Lentell says crooks who are found taking advantage of disaster victims will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
To register for federal help following the disaster declaration, visit: www.DisasterAssistance.gov or call FEMA at 800-621-3362.