U.S. Attorney David C. Joseph, Justice Department remind the public in the wake of disasters to report fraud to the National Center for Disaster Fraud
National Center for Disaster Fraud Partners with National Association of Attorneys General to combat disaster-related fraud
SHREVEPORT/LAFAYETTE/MONROE/ALEXANDRIA/LAKE CHARLES, La. – The Department of Justice established the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, when billions of dollars in federal disaster relief poured into the Gulf Coast region, which opened opportunities for criminals to exploit people during vulnerable times.
The NCDF, a national coordinating agency within the Department’s Criminal Division, operates a call center at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge and serves as a centralized clearinghouse for disaster fraud complaints and information relating to both natural and man-made disasters. The NCDF seeks to improve and further the detection, prevention, investigation, and prosecution of fraud related to natural and man-made disasters, and to advocate for victims of such fraud. More than 20 federal, state, and local agencies participate in the NCDF, which allows them to forward complaints to the appropriate agency for investigation.
“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.”
While compassion, assistance, and solidarity are generally prevalent in the aftermath of natural disasters, unscrupulous individuals and organizations also use these tragic events to take advantage of those in need. Examples of illegal activity being reported to the NCDF and law enforcement include:
- Impersonation of federal law enforcement officials;
- Identity theft;
- Fraudulent submission of claims to insurance companies and the federal government;
- Fraudulent activity related to solicitations for donations and charitable giving;
- Fraudulent activity related to individuals and organizations promising high investment returns from profits from recovery and cleanup efforts;
- Price gouging;
- Contractor fraud;
- Debris removal fraud; and
- Theft, looting, and other violent crime
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.
“Louisiana has suffered from the devastation of many hurricanes and other natural disasters throughout its history,” U.S. Attorney David C. Joseph stated. “I join with NCDF Executive Director U.S. Attorney Brandon Fremin and Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry in condemning the actions of those who would take advantage of disaster victims and pledge to vigorously prosecute those who take advantage of programs that are in place to provide relief. The National Center for Disaster Fraud is a great tool to expose those who would try to use national disasters for personal gain and to prosecute the fraud schemes that hurt those most in need. As we face the current hurricane season, I urge the public to prepare, but also to remember that there is help should disaster strike.”
“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.”
Members of the public are reminded to apply a critical eye and do their due diligence before trusting anyone purporting to be working on behalf of disaster victims and before giving contributions to anyone soliciting donations on behalf of disaster victims, as well as being extremely cautious before providing personal identifying or financial information to anyone, especially those who may contact you after a natural disaster. Solicitations can originate from e-mails, websites, door-to-door collections, mailings and telephone calls, and similar methods. Members of the public who suspect fraud, waste, abuse, or allegations of mismanagement involving disaster relief operations, or believe they have been the victim of fraud from a person or organization soliciting relief funds on behalf of disaster victims, should contact the National 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. You can also fax information to the Center at (225) 334-4707, or email it to email@example.com (link sends e-mail). Learn more about the NCDF at www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud and watch a public service announcement here. Tips for the public on how to avoid being victimized of fraud are at www.justice.gov/opa/pr/tips-avoiding-fraudulent-charitable-contribution-schemes.