Scammers Posing as FEMA Agents Target COVID-19 Victims' Families to Steal Personal Information

The Federal Trade Commission has sent an alert about criminals who are trying to profit from the pain of thousands of families who've lost loved ones to COVID-19

Mario Tama/Getty Images

The federal government recently launched a public assistance program that seeks to help family members of people who died due to COVID-19 receive reimbursements for funeral expenses through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. However, complaints of scams were reported before the program even officially launched.

The scam works like many others – someone pretends to be FEMA personnel, and gives you a call, with the sole intention of stealing your personal information.

“The scammers have perfected their work with technology. Now, you can receive a message that seems legitimate, [but it is not],” said Luis Gallegos, spokesman for the Federal Trade Commission.

Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech have requested the FDA expands the emergency use of their COVID-19 vaccine to include adolescents aged 12 to 15.

FEMA will not contact you by phone, text message, or email to ask for your social security number, bank account, or credit card. And, the government is not going to ask you to pay any fees or advance payments.

"FEMA is never going to call you before you register with us," said Maria Padrón, a FEMA spokeswoman. "If someone calls you, asking for your personal information, it is not FEMA."

The FEMA program that seeks to provide financial assistance for COVID-19-related funeral expenses does exist – it offers a maximum of $9,000 per funeral and a maximum of $35,500 per application – but you have to call first to receive help.

When Luisa Flores of Dallas, Texas, lost her father to COVID-19, it sparked a chain of events that drained her family’s savings and has left them reliant on food banks to eat. Her story is just one example of how the pandemic has devastated families and led to a spike in food insecurity across the country.

For more information, visit the agency's website or call 1-844-684-6333.

Do not give your information or the information of a loved one who has died to anyone who contacts you without initiating contact with FEMA first.

If someone contacts you, and you have any doubt that the person on the phone is a FEMA agent, it is best to hang up without giving them any information and to contact the agency directly. They will assist you and guide you if you qualify for the program.

This story first appeared on NBCLA's sister station, Telemundo 52. Haz clic aquí para leer esta historia en español

Contact Us