SHAWNEE, Okla. (KFOR) – A warning for Oklahomans recovering from the April tornado outbreak. KFOR has learned scammers have started going after victims.
Monday, crews were in Shawnee cleaning up debris along the curb in some of the hardest hit neighborhoods. As workers remove downed limbs and trees, another problem arrived with fake forms at people’s doorstep.
Community renewal of Pottowatomie County said the forms were circulating, asking for banking and personal information.
“That was completely fraudulent,” said Patrick Boland, spokesperson for FEMA.
He said he has seen attempts to steal information at every disaster he works.
“FEMA will never ask you to give personal banking information or financial information of any kind in the field,” said Boland. “One of the things they try to do is get people’s personal information sometimes so they can apply for assistance fraudulently, using somebody’s personal information.”
The scams tend to camouflage the true kindness of actual, trustworthy organizations. Ones like the United Way of Pottawatomie County. Michael Affentranger is the chairman of United Way’s Disaster Recovery Allocations Fund.
“There’s a lot of compassionate folks that are coming together,” said Affentranger. “We already safely have $300,000 raised. We have a goal of hitting $1 million or more.”
The fund is to fill the gaps for hundreds of impacted families after cleanup and federal funds wrap up.
The executive director of United Way Pott County, Sandy Vanderburg, said many of the people impacted by the scams were in desperate need of funds.
“Many of them live paycheck to paycheck. And unfortunately, this disaster has probably wreaked their world,” said Vanderburg. “Their employer may have had to close. They may have lost transportation; their childcare may have closed. People just need help.”
Fema said its representatives in the field will never ask for banking or personal information and always look for an official FEMA ID badge if someone in the fields assists you.
The best way to avoid sharing information with the wrong people is to call FEMA’s number at 1-800-621-3362 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. eastern time. You can also go to their website at disasterassistance.gov.
If you want to donate to United Way of Pott County’s Disaster Recovery Allocations Fund you can visit their website at unitedwaypottco.org.