FEMA warns of disaster fraud, scams

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BEATTYVILLE, Ky. (WTVQ) – The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is warning people in declared disaster areas to be on the lookout for disaster fraud and scams.

When natural disasters occur, it is common for some people to try to take advantage of survivors by posing as official disaster aid workers trying to help survivors complete their applications.

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Scam attempts can be made over the phone, by mail,  email, text or in person.  Survivors of the Kentucky severe storms, flooding, landslides and mudslides from Feb. 27 through March 14 should be aware of scams and report any suspicious activity or potential fraud from scam artists, identity thieves and other criminals.

Federal and state workers never ask for, or accept, money and always carry identification badges. There is no fee required to apply for, or to get, federal disaster assistance. There is never a fee for FEMA home inspections.

During each disaster, it’s important to stay tuned to local media and trusted local and federal social media for current updates about ongoing disasters and tips on fraud prevention.

If something makes you feel uncomfortable, check with FEMA or local law enforcement to ensure your identity is protected.

Those who question the validity of a contact, or suspect fraud, are encouraged to call the FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721. Complaints also may be made by contacting local law enforcement.

FEMA also recommends you monitor your credit report for any accounts or changes you do not recognize. If you discover someone is using your information, you will need to take additional steps, to include filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission through its website IdentityTheft.gov.

Tips to protect against charity scams and a list of registered charitable organizations are available at: ag.ky.gov/Priorities/Protecting-Kentuckians/charity/Pages/default.aspx

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Tom Kenny joined ABC 36 News in June of 2001 as a General Assignment Reporter. A native of Peoria, Illinois, he graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications from Western Illinois University. He currently anchors ABC 36 News at 5pm, 6pm and 11pm. Tom has more than three decades of experience in broadcast journalism. He is the only broadcast journalist in Lexington television history to be honored with a national Edward R. Murrow Award. Tom was recognized for reporting on a story that gave a rare glimpse inside the secretive world of the Federal Witness Protection Program. He has won an Emmy Award for anchoring and another for investigative reporting, exposing the deceit and potential danger of online diploma mills. Tom has ten other Emmy nominations to his credit for investigative and feature reporting. He has won Associated Press Awards for reporting and anchoring. He has won two Addy Awards for excellence in promotional writing. Tom was the first broadcast journalist in Lexington TV history to be awarded the Silver Circle Award by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. It is one of the highest honors given by NATAS. It recognizes television professionals who have performed distinguished service within the television industry for 25-years or more. Tom was honored for more than his longevity, he was recognized for making an enduring contribution to the vitality of the television industry and for setting high standards of achievement. He was also recognized for giving back to the community as a mentor, educator and volunteer. Tom also has network broadcast experience in radio and television having worked as a sports reporter for ESPN, Sportschannel, NBC Sports and the Breeders’ Cup. He was also the studio host and halftime producer for CBS Radio Sports’ College Football Game of the Week and covered the NFL for One-On-One Radio Sports. Prior to joining WTVQ-TV, Tom was Vice-President of the Houston Astros Minor League baseball team in Lexington. He was part of the original management team that brought professional baseball back to the Bluegrass after a nearly 50-year absence. Tom has lived in Lexington since 1984. In that time, he has been heavily involved with dozens of charity and civic groups, with a special emphasis on helping Veterans. He can be reached at tkenny@wtvq.com. You can also follow Tom on Facebook www.facebook.com/TomKennyABC and Twitter @TomKennyNews. Just click on the links at the top of the page.