Harlem Rep. Espaillat Urges Caution Among Constituents To Avoid Disaster Recovery Scams

October 12, 2021

Representative Adriano Espaillat released the following statement advising constituents of New York’s 13 congressional districts.

To beware of scams and frauds when applying for federal resources intended to assist those affected by Hurricane Ida.

“My office worked to secure $11+ billion in disaster relief for New York City, including more than $5 billion to directly help businesses, nonprofit organizations, homeowners, and renters recover from Hurricane Ida,” said Rep. Espaillat. “As efforts continue to help residents reach the resources that they need to recover, residents should utilize the following resources to apply for assistance and be wary of possible scams and frauds attempting to take advantage of disaster survivors. Any resident seeking assistance can always contact my office for help with navigating the application process.”

Individuals affected by Hurricane Ida in New York can apply for assistance online at disasterassistance.gov or by telephone at 1-800-621-3362 or TTY 1-800-462-7585, 7 days a week from 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. ET.

New York State resources can be found online at the FEMA New York Disasters Relief Portal and call 311 for New York City resources and referrals to agencies that support community-specific needs.

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Some common post-disaster fraud practices include fake offers of state or federal aid, people impersonating housing inspectors and government workers, rental listing scams, fraudulent charitable solicitations, and unlicensed and uninsured contractors offering services.

If you believe you or a loved one has become a victim of a scam or identity theft, report it immediately to your local police or sheriff’s department, or contact the office of the New York State Attorney General by filing a complaint online or calling the Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-697-1220.

Protect Yourself from Fake Offers of Federal Aid:

FEMA and U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) personnel do not solicit or accept payment from individuals, and never charge applicants seeking disaster assistance, inspections or help in completing applications. FEMA personnel will never promise a disaster grant.

Protect Yourself from People Impersonating Housing Inspectors and Government Workers:

When an inspector arrives, protect yourself by asking to see the official identification badge. All FEMA personnel and contractors will have official laminated photo identification. A FEMA inspector will have the 9-digit application or registration number assigned at registration and you can ask for that number to confirm identification – do not offer your 9-digit registration number to the inspector.

Field inspectors may contact applicants by calling or sending text messages from government-issued phones or personal cell phones so applicants may receive calls from different area codes, including to verify personal data. If you receive a call from someone claiming to represent FEMA, always request that person’s FEMA identification number.

If you are in any doubt about whether someone who contacted you works for FEMA, do not give out any information and call the FEMA Helpline at 1-800-621-3362 or TTY: 1-800-462-7585, 7 days a week, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET to verify legitimacy.

Protect Yourself from Fake Charities:

If you want to donate to Hurricane Ida disaster relief, you can find a list of reputable charities at https://give.org/. Criminals often exploit people who experienced disasters, like Hurricane Ida, by sending fraudulent communications through email or social media and by creating phony websites designed to solicit contributions. The Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance advises not to respond to unsolicited emails requesting contributions and to watch out for pushy telemarketers. Some fake charities will use names that are like real organizations’ names.

To learn more, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website information on Scam Alerts.

Protect Yourself from Rental Listing Scams:

Scammers know that finding the right apartment or vacation rental can be hard work, and a seemingly good deal is hard to pass up. Never wire money to pay a security deposit, application fee, first month’s rent, or vacation rental fee. That’s true even if they send you a contract first. Wiring money is the same as sending cash — once you send it, you have no way to get it back. It’s never a good idea to send money to someone you’ve never met in person for an apartment you haven’t seen. Don’t send money overseas for a rental. And, if you find the same ad listed under a different name, that’s a clue it may be a scam.

To learn more, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website information on Rental scams.

Protect Yourself from Unlicensed/Uninsured Contractors:

Before you hire a home improvement contractor, Ask for references, be cautious about advanced payments, and make sure they are licensed and obtain the proper permits. Always check whether the contractor is licensed or registered in your county in New York City, you can check at:


Report Fraud, Waste or Abuse to FEMA:

Report fraud, waste or abuse to FEMA by email to disaster@leo.gov or call the FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline at 1-866-720-5721, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.

Representative Espaillat is the first Dominican American to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives and his congressional district includes Harlem, East Harlem, West Harlem, Hamilton Heights, Washington Heights, Inwood, Marble Hill and the northwest Bronx.

First elected to Congress in 2016, Representative Espaillat is serving his third term in Congress. Representative Espaillat currently serves as a member of the influential U.S. House Committee on Appropriations responsible for funding the federal government’s vital activities.

He is also a member of the House Committee on Education and Labor and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), where he serves in a leadership role as the Second Vice-Chair and is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, where he serves as Deputy Whip.

Representative Espaillat also currently serves as a Senior Whip of the Democratic Caucus. To find out more about Rep. Espaillat, visit online at https://espaillat.house.gov/.

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