FEMA now investigating claims from Hurricane Irma with suspicious activity, stolen identities

Ken Amaro delves into suspicious activity within FEMA claims.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Local Dr. Brad Biglow received a letter from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on Tuesday. It was about a claim for damage from Hurricane Irma.

"Initially I was quite shocked," Biglow said.

Biglow said he didn't have any storm damage and he never filed a claim. What he found even more troubling is the fact that the claim was filed using his personal information.

"The document [included] my name, my current address, my date of birth, and my social security number," he said.

The claim form had a contact number that wasn't his phone number. When he called it, the person on the other end said it was a business, more particularly, a local health insurance company.

"I don't know if some kind of database has been accessed," he said.

Concerned, he filed a complaint with FEMA immediately, then he placed alerts on his credit file.

"My biggest fear is that because of this social security number being here, there could be larger concerns such as tax fraud," he said.

FEMA officials say the agency is seeing more and more cases like Biglow's.

"They've been looking at this for awhile now," said FEMA official, Gerard Hammink.

Hammink said FEMA is trying to determine who is behind this potential fraud.

"FEMA's database has not been compromised," he said. "They did an extensive security review and found no evidence."

The repeated cases of "suspicious activity" have the attention of several federal agencies.

"The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Inspector General, even the Justice Department [are] looking into it," Hammink said.

Hammink's advice: If you receive a claim letter, knowing you did not file a claim, you should contact FEMA or DHS immediately.  

Biglow hopes it was a mistake, but believes someone stole his identity and was trying to defraud FEMA.

The claim has been locked and is now under investigation.

FEMA has also instituted additional verification controls to be sure the person filing the claim is eligible to receive the assistance. 

© 2017 WTLV-TV


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