The National Center for Disaster Fraud, or NCDF, along with U.S. Attorney Offices in the District of Puerto Rico, Southern District of Florida, Middle District of Florida and Northern District of Florida have announced the formation of task forces comprised of local, state and federal agencies in their respective areas to combat Hurricane Irma related illegal activity.
The NCDF and U.S. Attorneys in those districts urge residents and businesses to immediately report suspected fraudulent activity relating to recovery and cleanup operations, fake charities claiming to be providing relief for victims, individuals submitting false claims for disaster relief and any other disaster fraud related activity.
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 man made 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.
Officials say that while compassion, assistance, and solidarity are generally prevalent in the aftermath of natural disasters, unscrupulous individuals and organizations also use these tragic events to take advantage of those in need.
In the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the NCDF says it has already received more than 400 complaints.
Members of the public who suspect fraud, waste, abuse, or allegations of mismanagement involving disaster relief operations, or believe they have been the victim of fraud from a person or organization soliciting relief funds on behalf of disaster victims, should contact the National Disaster Fraud Hotline toll free at (866) 720-5721.
The telephone line is staffed by a live operator 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
You can also fax information to the Center at (225) 334-4707, or email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Members of the public are reminded to apply a critical eye and do their due diligence before giving contributions to anyone soliciting donations on behalf of disaster victims. Solicitations can originate from e-mails, websites, door-to-door collections, mailings and telephone calls, and similar methods.