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FEMA warns residents of fraud

Text messages to recipients of federal disaster aid are fake

October 1, 2010
By LINDSEY MUTCHLER, Messenger staff writer

Fraudulent text messages have been sent to people recovering from disasters in states surrounding Iowa, and Federal Emergency Management Agency officials want residents to be aware of the scam.

FEMA and Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division are reporting that the text messages being sent tell the recipient they have a message from FEMA.

The cell phone owner is then instructed to press the star button on their phone to receive information about their federal disaster assistance. Once that button is pushed, a subscription of $9.99 per month is charged to the owner of the cell phone.

FEMA officials said the text messages are not being sent from their employees or offices and urge anyone receiving questionable messages to report them to the Iowa Consumer Protection Agency at 281-5926.

FEMA asks individuals not to respond to any text messages claiming to be from FEMA, and in addition consumers should be aware that:

FEMA services never cost money. Beware of phone calls from people who say they can help with FEMA applications for a fee.

If one has applied with FEMA and receives a phone call, the caller will ask you to verify a portion of your nine-digit FEMA registration number or a Social Security number. A FEMA employee will be able to verify that information.

FEMA advises individuals not to give out Social Security numbers or bank account information to someone who calls or visits, as this information is only collected by FEMA.

Call the Police Department or Sheriff's Department to verify any contractor who is soliciting at 573-1426 or 573-1410, respectively.

Check contractor's state registration and proof of insurance.

Never rely on verbal commitments. Get warranties and written contracts, including start and completion dates and details about scheduled work and required materials.

According to FEMA, individuals can report suspected fraud to the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General's hotline at (800) 323-8603.

Contact Lindsey Mutchler at (515) 573-2141 or



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