by Rick Boettger.......
Well, Homeland Security finally got back to me on my post-Irma FEMA swindle. In brief, 250,000 cases like mine this year in FEMA disaster areas see crooks steal just enough of your identity to claim a FEMA benefit on your behalf, and have it sent to THEIR bank account—in my case, $500.
I found out about this in October when a nice fellow knocked on our door one morning. Boy, was he glad to find us, because he had called five times about our claim, and he was leaving town soon.
Claim? What claim? Cynthia and I paid a lot to evacuate and fix our massive foliage damage, but all I thought we'd get out of that is a casualty tax deduction. We had made no FEMA claim.
Well, it turns out someone knew my name, SS#, and address, and that is all it took for FEMA to send $500 to his GoBank account the previous month. In the application our FEMA guy had on his computer, it had our wrong phone number and email account. Foolishly, FEMA encourages direct deposit instead of checks mailed to a home address. Our FEMA guy, not knowing the false claim had already been paid, told me NOT to request a mailed check as it would screw up the process.
I found out about the fraud when I got through to FEMA. They gave me an email address for the fraud unit to describe the above, and I got called today. The agent gave me his name and number and told me to spread the word.
Basically, if you have any reason to believe someone has filed your case fraudulently, for example, if you got a letter from the SBA offering you an unsolicited loan, that means you are in the system.
What I am supposed to do is report the crime to the local PD, put a Fraud Alert on my credit report, and register with identitytheft.gov/steps.