Officials at FEMA's Transitional Recovery Office in Biloxi are warning occupants of FEMA-provided travel trailers and mobile homes that a scam associated with the sale of these temporary housing units may be underway.
According to Dennis Kizziah, acting director of the Biloxi TRO, reports of occupants being contacted by persons posing as FEMA housing sales representatives have surfaced.
"FEMA has been notified that an applicant living in a housing unit received a telephone call from a person who identified himself as a FEMA representative. The caller asked if the occupant had received a letter about purchasing the unit and if the occupant planned to do so. When the occupant said no, the caller said the occupant had 30 days to vacate the unit. This was absolutely not a FEMA representative," said Kizziah, "and may be a scam artist."
Kizziah notes that a FEMA sales representative will call an occupant only to verify the receipt by FEMA of the occupant's signed Notice of Intent to Purchase Housing Unit.
"The purpose of this telephone call is to verify that the occupant did, in fact, send in the NOI and that the information provided on the NOI is correct," said Kizziah.
Because of the large volume of NOIs being received, it's likely that it will be a few weeks before sales representatives begin contacting occupants about their specific sales.
"When an occupant gets a call, the sales representative will provide the occupant with his/her name and phone number. If the occupant wishes, he or she can call the number provided to verify that he or she is speaking with a FEMA representative."
Kizziah also said that all FEMA employees should show their picture IDs to occupants to verify their identities as FEMA employees.
"If they do not, occupants should ask to see the representative's FEMA picture ID to verify their identity. If the individual does not immediately produce the identification badge with the person's photo on it, please contact your local law enforcement agency immediately," said Kizziah.
Kizziah further stated that the office has received several NOIs that have been altered by an individual. Persons who knowingly alter these forms or falsely provide information to FEMA could be prosecuted for fraud.
"The sales program is strictly for those applicants who currently are residing in FEMA-provided travel trailers and mobile homes. To represent oneself as one of these applicants or to provide information as if you are a resident is illegal," he said.