U.S. Department of Justice Announces Department-Wide Response to Disaster Fraud
the National Center for Disaster Fraud has already received hundreds of complaints from across the country
The U.S. Department of Justice has issued a memorandum to all 94 U.S. Attorney's Offices (USAO) and heads of the department's law enforcement agencies providing, for the first time, department-wide guidance relating to the coordination, investigation, and prosecution of disaster fraud allegations.
"The Justice Department is committed to pursuing any fraudsters seeking to capitalize on the tragedy and will devote the necessary resources to do so," said Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein. "It is imperative that the department is able to properly track and manage its response to claims of disaster fraud and that agencies receive timely and relevant investigative leads and other relevant information. By working together, we can ensure that federal emergency relief funds are properly distributed to those who need them most and that taxpayers are not victimized by fraudsters or other criminals."
National Center for Disaster Fraud
The Justice Department says that the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) has already received hundreds of complaints from across the country. NCDF has remained operational since its inception following Hurricane Katrina and is specifically designed to be ready for situations like Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose, and Maria.
The memo issued to the U.S. Attorneys establishes a department-wide policy that stresses the importance of establishing a disaster fraud point-of-contact, directing all disaster fraud complaints to NCDF, notifying NCDF about any disaster-related enforcement actions, ensuring proper resources are dedicated to the investigation and prosecution of disaster fraud matters, directing U.S. Attorneys in districts impacted by recent hurricanes to establish regional disaster fraud task forces, as well as including the NCDF hotline in all disaster fraud external communications.
U.S. Attorney Offices in the Southern District of Texas, District of Puerto Rico, Southern District of Florida, Middle District of Florida, and Northern District of Florida have already established task forces comprised of local, state, and federal agencies in their respective areas to combat disaster fraud.
Report suspected fraud
Members of the public are reminded to apply a critical eye and do their due diligence before trusting anyone purporting to be working on behalf of disaster victims. Members of the public who suspect fraud involving disaster relief efforts, or believe that they have been the victim of fraud from a person or organization soliciting relief funds on behalf of disaster victims, should contact the National Disaster Fraud Hotline at (866) 720-5721.
The National Disaster Fraud Hotline is staffed by live operators 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.