Police Warn of Potential Identity Thieves in Wake of Storm

October 3, 2008 - Houston police are asking citizens to be aware of individuals visiting neighborhoods and possibly posing as government employees or contractors in an effort to obtain personal information and steal identities from unsuspecting Hurricane Ike victims.

Due to the storm, a number of employees from the federal, state, city and county are visible in many neighborhoods assisting in recovery efforts. Those include two groups in particular; FEMA representatives and contractors with FEMA. The first group is comprised of Community Relations FEMA employees who go into neighborhoods as a group to distribute information and identify those citizens with special needs. Each of them has a FEMA badge and should NOT be asking citizens for their personal identification numbers. The second group is made up of Inspectors and each is a contractor with FEMA. Though they will not possess a FEMA ID, they will have a certified inspector badge. These inspectors meet only with citizens who have made previous appointments for such visits and should have the citizen’s information and claim number.

Neither group, including anyone with any government agency, should be asking for personal information such as social security numbers or driver’s license numbers unless a citizen has made a prearranged appointment with an employee.

Though there are no known incidents reported to HPD of con artists posing as Ike relief workers as of yet, HPD wants to remind citizens this type of fraud is preventable if they obtain names and contact numbers of those employees visiting their neighborhoods.

Any citizen with a question concerning the validity of a FEMA employee should contact the FEMA help line at 1-800-621-FEMA. Similar questions regarding other government workers should be directed to the proper agency the worker claims to be representing.

For additional information, please contact the HPD Public Affairs Division at 713-308-3200.

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