Abcactionnews.com, Erik Waxler, September 6, 2023
NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. — Hurricane Idalia didn’t cause many problems at Lorie Earl’s New Port Richey home.
“Barely any rain. Just a little bit of rain. Nothing at all. We really had no damage at all,” said Earl.
That’s why she was surprised to see someone from FEMA show up at her front door Tuesday morning.
“I’ve got an application for Michael Earl.”
Lorie didn’t file a claim, and her husband, Michael, didn’t either.
The man who rang her doorbell did not have a FEMA badge, so naturally, she was suspicious.
“Once he showed me the phone number and the email address of the person who filed the claim, it was not ours. So I told him it sounded like a scam. He said you are right. There are a lot of scams out there, and he turned around and went right back to his vehicle,” said Lorie.
I checked with FEMA, and they said this man is contracted with them as a housing inspector and should have been wearing his badge.
But FEMA said Lorie did the right thing in calling them.
They said they were not sure if it was an attempt at fraud by whoever filed the claim or just a mistake.
FEMA does have disaster assistance teams going through different neighborhoods impacted by the storm.
But they are clearly marked with shirts and vests and identification.
Disaster assistance can include money for basic home repairs and temporary lodging.
FEMA has outside contractors like this man working for them as inspectors, but they normally come by appointment.
FEMA said, like in this case, if an inspector comes and the resident didn’t submit an application, the homeowner needs to make that clear to stop the process.
Lorie said it’s heartbreaking for someone to take advantage of others during such a difficult time.
“The way the economy is now. We are living paycheck to paycheck. And what if someone does put a claim on you and then they drop your insurance? Or it’s an elderly person who didn’t know any better, and they gave him some information, and that took and destroyed their retirement and everything like that,” said Earl.
Report any questionable claims or other issues to the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362.