National hotline receives hundreds of fraud reports in the wake of Hurricane Florence

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Hundreds of people are calling a national hotline to complain about being scammed as they rebuild after the recent hurricanes.

A public service announcement recently released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in eastern North Carolina aims to help people know where to turn if they think they are victims of fraud during a national disaster.

As of Tuesday morning, the National Center for Disaster Fraud has received 380 complaints, including reports of fake charities, identity theft and contractors taking advantage of hurricane victims.

The national hotline, which was originally established in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, is specifically designed to handle fraud cases related to natural disasters. It is staffed 24/7 by law enforcement agents who actively review cases to determine if they should be referred to local, state or federal authorities.

“In the aftermath of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Florence the affected communities and citizens of Eastern North Carolina should be on guard against disaster fraud schemes,” said Robert J. Higdon Jr., United States Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina. “As FEMA and other federal, state, and local relief agencies work tirelessly to support those who have suffered losses as the result of this natural disaster, we can be certain that criminals will target those impacted and attempt to profit from the suffering of others. The Department of Justice is committed to detecting and stopping this type of fraud.”

Since Hurricane Florence hit, Attorney General Josh Stein has filed several price gouging lawsuits involving tree cutting services, including one company that charged a Wilmington customer more than double the quoted price for services.

If you believe you have been a victim of fraud following Hurricane Florence or Michael, call the National Center for Disaster Fraud at 866-720-5721.