VENTURA (CBSLA) — Thomas Fire victims were warned Friday to beware of FEMA-related scams.
The Thomas Fire, which continues to burn but is at 92 percent containment, has destroyed more than 1,000 structures and damaged 280 more. At 281,893 acres, it is the largest wildfire in California history.
Ventura County District Attorney Gregory Totten issued a warning Friday that residents should be aware of scams involving fraudulent Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, assistance.
Several similar scams came to light after the devastating wildfires in Northern California.
Some victims discovered their personal information had been used to file fraudulent FEMA applications when they tried to apply for assistance. Others who had not filed for assistance reported people, claiming to be FEMA-affiliated inspectors, had come to their homes, asking about their applications.
“Residents should be aware that FEMA will not send inspectors to your residence unless you have filed an application for assistance,” Totten said in a statement. “FEMA inspectors will not collect personal identifying information or bank account information at your residence. This information will only be requested when a person fills out the application online or at a Local Assistance Center.”
Totten also added that all FEMA employees and contractors have federally-issued photo identification badges.
Anyone who has been contacted by someone claiming to be a FEMA inspector when they have not applied for assistance can contact the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General at (800) 323-8603 or go to www.oig.dhs.gov.
Anyone who goes to file an application for assistance, but finds one already submitted in their name can call the Disaster Fraud Line at (866) 720-5721.
FEMA scam victims are likely also victims of identity theft. Identity theft victims should file a report with local police departments and contact the three major credit bureaus and consider a credit monitoring service or a credit freeze to prevent against new accounts being opened in the victim’s name, the District Attorney’s Office said.