FEMA: Filing false applications is costly to deserving survivors

Published 2:49 pm Friday, April 14, 2023

Anyone who applies for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency purposefully claiming disaster damage that did not happen is taking money away from those who truly need help.

They also may be charged with a serious crime.

FEMA must make sure taxpayer dollars only go to homeowners and renters who suffered genuine loss in Mississippi in the March 24-25 storms.

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Those caught filing a false application can be charged with a felony and — if convicted — face a maximum 30-year prison term and up to $250,000 in fines.

Fraud can be reported in multiple ways:

  • Contact the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General at 800-323-8603.
  • Fill out a fraud complaint online at OIG.dhs.gov.
  • Send by mail to DHS Office of Inspector General: Mail Stop 0305, Department of Homeland Security, 245 Murray Drive SW, Washington DC 20528-0305, marked to the attention of Office of Investigations — Hotline.
  • Call FEMA’s Office of the Chief Security Officer Tip Line at 866-223-0814 or email FEMA-OCSO-Tipline@fema.dhs.gov.

Calls may be answered by recorded message. Callers will be asked a few questions. That information will be entered into a data system and given to an investigator. If you leave a name and phone number, the investigator will return your call. An inspector has 90 days to confirm the complaint.

Conducting audits and investigating possible fraud is done in all federal disaster operations. The U.S. Department of Justice prosecutes cases that result in criminal charges.

An applicant who has made a mistake when reporting damage, or has misrepresented losses, may correct or cancel their claim by calling the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362 to withdraw or correct an application and prevent prosecution. Calls are accepted daily from 6 a.m. until midnight.