TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCJB/ Gray Florida Capital Bureau) – The state and federal governments are working to help people recover from Hurricane Idalia as quickly as possible.
Disasters are also opportunities for criminals to take advantage of several programs in place as we saw during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Essentially the criminals provided us with a master class on how to commit fraud,” VP for Risk & Fraud Strategy at Thomson Reuters Amanda D’Amico said.
D’Amico used to be the director of the Office of Public Benefits Integrity at the Florida Department of Children & Families. Now she helps government agencies fight fraud. She said there’s new technology to help prevent criminals from getting taxpayer money.
“These are things that allow them to detect fraudulent behavior patterns, detect identity theft or potential identity theft upfront before any money is dispersed to these criminal actors,” D’Amico said.
FEMA is set up across the Big Bend helping people register for assistance. It says it has systems in place to weed out the fraud.
“We ask for identifying documents as well as some sort of utility bill at that address and with their name in it,” FEMA Spokesman Troy York said.
York said FEMA doesn’t see much fraud, but it does happen. Most of the time it is with a stolen identity.
“We make a note and notify within the agency, those sections of the agency, will follow up on what we think or appears to be frauds,” York said.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office said the federal government lost $2.2 trillion to scammers over the last 20 years. People are encouraged to help protect against fraud.
FEMA said you should be wearing of contractors going door to door asking if they’ve registered for assistance.
Residents of Dixie, Levy, Suwannee, Hamilton, Taylor, and Citrus counties can apply for disaster assistance