The Madison 911 Twitter feed has reported that the Madison Police Department is investigating a blonde white female who appears to be in her 30's, in a white or silver vehicle, approaching homeowners and claiming to be from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the federal goverment agency that deals with disaster mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery.
Madison 911 says no crime has been reported.
Madison 911 also reminds residents that "legitimate FEMA employees will carry photo ID. Don't give your info to anyone without verifying."
Madison 911 also cited the following press release:
Watch Out For Fraudsters
As many...residents work to recover from Hurricane Sandy, state and federal officials are warning of a danger lurking around the corner: phony building contractors and other scam artists could soon appear in your community attempting to take advantage of your vulnerability as a disaster survivor.
There are a few simple steps that you can take to make sure you’re dealing with an honest person. Your first and best defense is to know the most common post-disaster fraud practices. Here are some of the fraudster’s favorites:
Phony housing inspectors: If your home’s damage is visible from the street, you may be especially vulnerable to the phony housing inspector who claims to represent FEMA or the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). You should:
Ask to see the inspector’s identification badge if he or she does not offer to show it. A FEMA or SBA shirt or jacket is not proof of someone’s affiliation with the government. All federal employees and contractors carry official, laminated photo identification.
Don't give out bank account numbers to an inspector claiming to be affiliated with the federal government. FEMA inspectors never require banking information.
Understand that FEMA housing inspectors verify damage, but do not hire or endorse specific contractors to fix homes or recommend repairs. They also do not determine cost estimates.
Fraudulent building contractors: Damage visible from the street can also bring out sham contractors who visit your home offering to begin work immediately. They take your money and disappear, leaving behind unfinished work and unsafe homes.
Before hiring a contractor, check with the state Division of Consumer Affairs make sure the contractor is registered. [Here is information from the CT Department of Consumer Affairs about dealing with contractors: http://www.ct.gov/DCP/cwp/view.asp?A=4187&Q=511396. "In order to determine if someone is a registered home improvement contractor, consumers should search the terms “home improvement contractor” or “home improvement salesperson” at elicense.ct.gov or call the Department’s Complaint Center Hotline at 800-842-2649 during business hours. If you have information about an unregistered salesperson or contractor, please call the Home Improvement line at 860-713-6110.]
Ask for a copy of the contractor’s liability insurance and verify that the policy is valid.
All contracts should be in writing, and reviewed before being signed.
Fake offers of state or federal aid: If someone claiming to be from FEMA or the state visits, calls or emails you asking for your Social Security number, bank account number or other sensitive information, beware. That information could be sold to identity thieves or used to defraud you. A twist on this scam is the phone or in-person solicitor who promises to speed up the insurance, disaster assistance or building-permit process. Then there are scam artists who promise you a disaster grant and ask for large cash deposits or advance payments in full.
Here’s what to do:
Provide your Social Security number and banking information only when registering for FEMA assistance, either by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362), TTY 1-800-462-7585, or going online at www.disasterassistance.gov or via a web-enabled phone at m.fema.gov. If you use 711-Relay or Video Relay Services, call 1-800-621-3362.
Know that federal and state workers do not solicit or accept money. FEMA and SBA staff never charge applicants for disaster assistance, inspections or help in filling out applications. If in doubt, do not give out information, and report people claiming to be government workers to local police.
Price Gouging: Excessive price increases are illegal.
Charity Scams: Before donating, be sure to investigate to make sure the organization asking for donations is registered to solicit in [your state]. Ask how the money will be used. [The CT Department of Consumer Protection maintains information on charities that are registered with the state and the minimum percentage guaranteed to go to that charity. The Department’s website, https://www.elicense.ct.gov, provides charity registration information and displays any active solicitation campaign notices for a registered charity or their paid solicitor. Additional information is also available at Charity Navigator, http://www.charitynavigator.org; the Federal Trade Commission: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/charityfraud; and the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance at http://www.bbb.org/us/charity. While the outpouring of grief, concern and support for the families affected by this tragedy will be enormous, so will be the potential for fraud. Please report suspicious solicitations to your local police and to the Department of Consumer Protection at 1-800-842-2649. Anyone caught engaging in fraudulent activity will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.]
For Connecticut residents interested in finding out if they can get help from FEMA, the deadline for registering has been extended to Jan. 28, 2013:
FEMA Helpline Still Available to Assist Hurricane Sandy Survivors in Connecticut
Release date: January 2, 2013
WINDSOR, Conn. — FEMA’s registration Helpline is still available for Connecticut residents who suffered damage from Hurricane Sandy.
Although all FEMA-State Disaster Recovery Centers in Connecticut have closed, the Helpline remains available for survivors to register for federal disaster assistance. Sandy survivors who have already registered for aid can call to ask questions, update contact information or check the status of their applications.
Disaster survivors can call 800-621-3362 to register for assistance, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Those who use TTY can call 800-462-7585. Multilingual operators can be reached after the initial English message concludes.
The deadline to register with FEMA has been extended to Jan. 28.
Registering for disaster assistance with other agencies or organizations does not register survivors for FEMA disaster assistance. Having FEMA flood insurance does not register policyholders for disaster assistance; flood insurance claims are handled separately.
As of Dec. 28, 2012, more than 2,500 Connecticut residents have been approved for federal disaster assistance. FEMA offers financial help to survivors of federally-declared disasters to cover uninsured losses and critical expenses which cannot be covered by other means.
Disaster recovery assistance is available without regard to race, color, religion, nationality, sex, age, disability, English proficiency or economic status. If you or someone you know has been discriminated against, call FEMA toll-free at 800-621-3362. For TTY, call 800-462-7585.
The U.S. Small Business Administration is the federal government’s primary source of money for the long-term rebuilding of disaster-damaged private property. SBA helps homeowners, renters, businesses of all sizes and private, nonprofit organizations fund repairs or rebuilding efforts and covers the cost of replacing lost or disaster-damaged personal property. These disaster loans cover losses not fully compensated by insurance or other recoveries and do not duplicate benefits of other agencies or organizations.
FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.