Congressman Vern Buchanan

Representing the 16th District of Florida

Buchanan Warns of Disaster Scams

Sep 14, 2017
Press Release
Asks Justice Department to be on “High Alert”

Fraud Common Following Natural Disasters

WASHINGTON – Florida Congressman Vern Buchanan today urged the U.S. Justice Department to be on “high alert” for disaster-related fraud in the wake of Hurricane Irma. In a letter sent today to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Buchanan warned of con artists exploiting relief efforts as they have done following previous natural disasters.

“If history is any indication, Irma promises to trigger a torrent of storm-related scams,” Buchanan said. “It is essential that the Justice Department use every tool and resource at its disposal to protect the public.” Buchanan's letter was also sent to Corey Amundsen, executive director of the National Center for Disaster Fraud, a task force run by the Justice Department.

Buchanan cited specific examples of criminal misconduct in the aftermaths of Hurricane Sandy and Harvey, including price gouging, fake charity scams, and con artists impersonating insurance agents in hurricane-ravaged neighborhoods.
Before Hurricane Sandy even made landfall in 2012, more than 1,000 new websites had been registered related to the superstorm - many created by fraudsters attempting to solicit bogus donation requests. In the storm's aftermath, New Jersey residents reportedly received communications from identity thieves purporting to be employees of the Social Security Administration requesting their personal information. And just last month, when Hurricane Harvey wreaked havoc across the Gulf Coast of Texas, scammers immediately sought to capitalize on the wreckage by making robocalls throughout the region falsely alerting victims that their flood insurance premiums were overdue and needed to be paid immediately to maintain coverage. 

The Department of Justice established the National Center for Disaster Fraud within its criminal division after Hurricane Katrina. To date, federal prosecutors have charged more than 1,300 disaster fraud cases in connection with Katrina alone.  Since 2005, the Center has received over 70,000 complaints from 50 states, 6 territories, and 4 countries involving over 50 natural and man-made disasters, according to its website.

Text of the letter below.

 

Sept. 14, 2017

The Honorable Jeff Sessions


Attorney General


U.S. Department of Justice


950 Pennsylvania Ave NW


Washington, DC 20530-0001

 

Mr. Corey Amundson

Executive Director

National Center for Disaster Fraud


Baton Rouge, LA


70821-4909

 

Dear Attorney General Sessions and Director Amundson:

I am urging the Justice Department to be on high alert for disaster-related fraud in the wake of Hurricane Irma.  

If history is any indication, Irma promises to trigger a torrent of storm-related scams including price gouging, fake charity campaigns, and con artists impersonating insurance agents in hurricane-ravaged neighborhoods.

Remarkably, before Hurricane Sandy even made landfall in 2012, more than 1,000 new websites had been registered related to the superstorm - many created by fraudsters attempting to solicit bogus donation requests. In the storm's aftermath, New Jersey residents reportedly received communications from identity thieves purporting to be employees of the Social Security Administration requesting their personal information.

And just last month, when Hurricane Harvey wreaked havoc across the Gulf Coast of Texas, scammers immediately sought to capitalize on the wreckage by making robocalls throughout the region falsely alerting victims that their flood insurance premiums were overdue and needed to be paid immediately to maintain coverage. 

Floridians will inevitably be targeted next.

That is why it is essential that the Justice Department use every tool and resource at its disposal to protect the public and bring those responsible for these heinous crimes to justice.  

On behalf of all Floridians affected by Hurricane Irma, I thank you for your swift action in identifying disaster fraud and prosecuting the perpetrators. 

Sincerely,






Vern Buchanan 

Member of Congress