BATON ROUGE, LA – The National Center for Disaster Fraud reminds the public to be aware of and report any instances of alleged fraudulent activity related to relief operations and funding for victims. Unfortunately, criminals can exploit disasters, such as Hurricane Harvey, for their own gain by sending fraudulent communications through email or social media and by creating phony websites designed to solicit contributions.
Tips should be reported to the National Center for Disaster Fraud at (866) 720-5721. The line is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Additionally, e-mails can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org (link sends e-mail), and information can be faxed to (225) 334-4707.
The U.S. Department of Justice established the National Center for Disaster Fraud to investigate, prosecute, and deter fraud in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, when billions of dollars in federal disaster relief poured into the Gulf Coast region. Its mission has expanded to include suspected fraud from any natural or manmade disaster. More than 30 federal, state, and local agencies participate in the National Center for Disaster Fraud, which allows the center to act as a centralized clearinghouse of information related to disaster relief fraud.
The public should remember to perform due diligence before giving contributions to anyone soliciting donations or individuals offering to provide assistance to those affected by the tornadoes. Solicitations can originate from social media, e-mails, websites, door-to-door collections, flyers, mailings, telephone calls, and other similar methods.
Before making a donation of any kind, consumers should adhere to certain guidelines, including: