National Center for Disaster Fraud reminds residents to be aware of fraud when disaster strikes and report it
On August 29 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Region of the United States, caused hundreds of thousands of people to be displaced from their homes, and caused damages estimated in excess of $100 billon. In the wake of Katrina, billions of dollars in federal aid flowed into the Gulf Region and, inevitably, so did those willing to exploit people during some of their most vulnerable times. As a result, the U.S. Department of Justice established the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF).
The NCDF, a national coordinating agency, was created by a partnership between the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division and various law enforcement and regulatory agencies. The goal was to improve and further the detection, prevention, investigation, and prosecution of fraud related to natural and man-made disasters, and to advocate for the victims of such fraud. The NCDF is led by U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Louisiana Brandon J. Fremin who serves as its Executive Director.
The NCDF serves as a centralized clearinghouse for disaster fraud complaints and provides a nationwide call center located on the campus of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The NCDF takes calls from members of the public and encourages them to report all types of disaster fraud. The NCDF employs a team of law enforcement agents who review those reports and make referrals to the appropriate investigative agencies for further investigation and for potential referral for prosecution. The NCDF provides de-confliction and coordination in handling disaster fraud matters and is focused on protecting disaster victims and any funds dedicated to disaster victims.
“Committing fraud against natural disaster victims is an inexcusable crime,” said Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. “We are now in hurricane season, and it is important for people to be on the lookout for fraudsters who seek to profit from natural disasters through identity theft schemes and solicitations for fake charities. The Department of Justice is committed to detecting this type of fraud, and we will aggressively prosecute the offenders. Through our National Center for Disaster Fraud, and in conjunction with our law enforcement partners, we are working to keep Americans from becoming victims of these schemes.”
The recent Carr Fire in California, though largely contained, has caused severe damage; the Pacific Hurricane Season has already proven to be quite active, as demonstrated by Hurricane Lane’s destructive landfall in Hawaii; and we are already 90 days into the 2018 Atlantic Hurricane Season. Unfortunately, and inevitably, natural and man-made disasters will continue to occur across our great nation. These terrible and often tragic events leave many people without food, water, or shelter, and often cause devastating damage to life and property. Nevertheless, there are criminals ready to take advantage of victims before, during, and especially after a natural disaster. They are looking to strike those at their most vulnerable time.
In ongoing efforts to strengthen partnerships and better inform the American people of its mission, the NCDF has joined with Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, who was recently installed as the President of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), in an effort to spread the message of the NCDF to more of our partners nationwide. We at the NCDF are collaborating with Attorney General Landry and the NAAG to inform every state Attorney General of the mission and function of the NCDF as part of Attorney General Landry’s presidential initiative on disaster fraud.
“The NCDF has an excellent staff of investigators, analysts, call center operators, and managers who are well prepared to handle the anticipated volume of complaints during hurricane season and help ensure that each report of fraud reaches the appropriate investigative agency,” said Executive Director Fremin. “Our collaboration with the National Association of Attorneys General and Attorney General Landry is yet another example of our efforts to better serve the American people before, during and after a natural disaster. Raising public awareness by spreading the message of the NCDF through the state Attorneys General is a great way for the NCDF to reach thousands of people who may one day be subjected to fraudulent schemes.”
“As President of the National Association of Attorneys General, my goal is to use the next 18 months to gather as much intel as possible so we may better prepare state and federal leaders for future crises,” said Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry. “We are fortunate to have the NCDF right here in Louisiana and it has served as a great resource to our citizens through hurricanes, floods, and other natural disasters. I am proud to team up with U.S. Attorney Fremin and the great men and women at the NCDF as we continue to look for ways to move our Louisiana and other states forward in terms of emergency preparedness and management.”
Members of the public are reminded to be extremely cautious before providing personal identifying or financial information to anyone, especially those who may contact you after a natural disaster. They are also reminded to report suspected waste, fraud, abuse, or allegations of criminal conduct. If members of the public believe they have been the victim of fraud from a person or organization soliciting relief funds on behalf of disaster victims, they are strongly encouraged to contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline toll free at 866-720-5721.
The telephone line is staffed by live operators 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Information can also be faxed to the Center at 225-334-4707, or sent by email. To learn more about the NCDF please visit the website at www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud and watch a public service announcement here.
Contributed by the United States Department of Justice