Target 8: Crooks follow federal disaster money to Tampa Bay area

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A Tampa man thought FEMA showed up responding to his claim about his storm-damaged home. 

Wrong. The inspector came by to check out a claim for damages filed by a stranger, who doesn’t live there or own the house, but told FEMA he did.

Hurricane Irma toppled a large tree onto Bob Anderson’s Tampa home.

It punched holes in his upper and lower roofs.

That brought in the rain.

“I was up in my attic with buckets,” said Anderson, who works for Nexstar, the company that owns News Channel 8.

Anderson had filed a claim with the Federal Emergency Management Agency online at DisasterAssistance.gov.

Within days, a FEMA inspector showed up. Anderson was in for a bit of a shocker.

“The information that he had and the name of the application was not mine, but the address was,” he explained.

Someone else called FEMA, stating he lived at Anderson’s address and filed a claim for damages.

“Unfortunately, it happens with most disasters,” said FEMA Communications Advisor Keith St. Clair.

So far, FEMA has approved $384 million in individual assistance in Florida. That number will grow.

“The big money would go toward replacing major home damage,” added St. Clair.

Anderson suspects one of the many gawkers who walked or drove by his damaged home figured he’d make some fast cash at his expense.

In addition to those trying to defraud the government, St. Clair warns schysters will target anyone who needs help.

“Remember that anybody from FEMA or any other federal agency is never going to ask you for any sort of money for any service,” he explained.

If you suspect fraud, the FEMA Fraud Hotline can be reached at 866-720-5721.

To register for FEMA assistance, visit DisasterAssistance.gov.

If you have a problem that you feel should be investigated, call our Target 8 Helpline at 1-800-338-0808.

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