FEMA must ensure that taxpayer dollars go only to people who incurred legitimate losses and the agency takes disbursement of necessary funds to the proper parties very seriously.
Those who are caught trying to make fraudulent claims can be charged with a felony and, if convicted, face a maximum 30-year prison term and up to $250,000 in fines.
A fraud complaint may also be completed online at the OIG’s website (www.oig.dhs.gov), faxed to 202-254-4297 or mailed to: DHS Office of Inspector General: Mail Stop 0305; Department of Homeland Security; 245 Murray Drive SW; Washington DC 20528-0305.
Calls may be answered by a recorded message. The caller will be asked a few questions. The information will be entered into the data system and assigned to a field investigator. If the caller left a name and phone number, it will be the investigator who will call back, not the person who took the call. An inspector has 90 days to verify the complaint.
Special agents from the Office of Inspector General use a number of methods to detect fraud. An automated system cross-checks information with other agencies and insurance companies to weed out duplicate applications. Field inspections are conducted to verify losses and damages for every person who applies to FEMA for individual assistance. Potential cases of fraud or misuse are referred for prosecution as federal offenses.
Any applicant who has made a mistake when reporting damage or has misrepresented losses has the opportunity to correct or cancel their claim. Individuals need to call the FEMA Helpline (800-621-3362) for voice or 711 VRS, or 800-662-7585 for TTY to withdraw or correct an application and prevent prosecution.