With Hurricane Irma’s aftereffects upon us, FEMA workers will be out and about in South Florida’s hardest-hit areas, knocking on doors and helping people file their claims.
But how do you know the person at your doorstep isn’t a phony? FEMA officials are asking Miami-Dade, Broward and Monroe residents to keep an eye out for red flags.
Though complaints haven’t officially rolled in, local officials are convinced it’s only a matter of time before the games begin.
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“After the hurricane, this is the time for scammers,” Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle told the Miami Herald Tuesday. “When people are in need, the scammers pop up out of the ground like mushrooms.”
FEMA spokesman, John Mills, confirmed Tuesday that FEMA’s Disaster Survivor Assistance Teams (DSA) are working several neighborhoods in the tri-county area, but warned citizens to be vigilant.
“We’re especially visiting areas that may have limited access to the internet and phone service,” Mills said. “Right now we have six teams in Miami-Dade knocking on doors helping people get registered on the spot. I don’t want people to be scared to receive help from our workers but they do need to be alert.”
Mills noted that workers may be accompanied by a variety of entities like local, state and federal agencies along with charitable organizations.
So, what do you look for when someone knocks on your door?
▪ Rule 1: FEMA will never ask for any money. If this happens, call your local police.
▪ All FEMA representatives will be wearing a federal photo ID badge. A FEMA shirt or jacket is not proof of identity.
▪ Beware of people going door-to-door. People knocking on doors at damaged homes or phoning homeowners claiming to be building contractors could be con artists, officials say.
▪ FEMA does not have ‘approved’ contractors. Beware of businesses that say they are affiliated with FEMA. Don’t sign anything you don’t understand or contracts with blank spaces. Here’s how to background check your contractor while you’re at it.
In the last week, FEMA approved more than $153 million in grants for more than 100,000 households in Florida for disaster-related needs not covered by insurance.
FEMA officials say you don’t have to wait for someone to knock on your door to file your claim. You can call 1-800-621-3362 or file online at https://www.disasterassistance.gov/.
Follow Monique O. Madan on Twitter: @MoniqueOMadan