ACROSS MISSISSIPPI — The U.S. Small Business Administration is urging disaster victims seeking federal aid to be alert to scam artists posing as federal officials and to be cautious about any solicitations for fees to perform services that are available from federal agency staff for free.
In the wake of widespread flooding, wildfires and tornados in many areas across the country over the past few months, the SBA is particularly concerned about flyers that have appeared in tornado-damaged areas asking for non-refundable fees of up to $450 to help disaster victims fill out their loan applications and as much as $1,000 to verify losses and file loan applications.
Federal agencies involved in disaster recovery will never ask for a fee or payment to file an application for financial assistance or to inspect damaged property.
“Historically, natural disasters bring out the very best in people, and there are countless stories of the selfless acts of helpful neighbors and volunteers,” said SBA administrator Karen Mills.
“Unfortunately, we have also seen in the past individuals who attempt to take advantage of people who need assistance. Disaster survivors should be vigilant in protecting their personal assets, particularly in the stressful environment of a disaster recovery.
To report possible fraudulent activities connected with disaster relief operations, contact local law enforcement officials, phone the toll-free National Disaster Fraud Hotline at 1-866-720-5721, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.