Hit with Hurricane Irma, and hit with identity theft.
Southwest Florida residents tell NBC2 that they tried to apply for FEMA assistance, but when they submitted their person information, a pop up window told them that they already applied.
“That day we saw your news report, we realized this was a lot more serious than we had thought,” said Paul Mazurkewitz, of Fort Myers.
On Tuesday, the NBC2 Investigators exposed dozens of Southwest Florida residents were victims of identity theft related to FEMA, after Hurricane Irma.
On Friday, we learned that number is growing by leaps and bounds. In our original story, identity theft victims found out their identities were compromised when they applied for FEMA assistance.
These new victims never even sought FEMA’s help, but they all received the same legitimate letter from the U.S. Small Business Administration that said, “You recently registered with FEMA for assistance with your disaster losses. You were referred to the U.S. Small Business Administration for possible disaster loan assistance.”
Here’s the strange thing: None of the people ever applied for FEMA assistance.
One month after the NBC2 Investigators exposed a major scheme involving criminals stealing local identities to defraud the federal government, the NBC2 Investigators get answers from FEMA.
“In the early days of the investigation, there wasn’t a public announcement in part to protect the integrity of the investigation and in part, because investigators were still trying to determine the scope and nature of these fraudulent registrations,” said Lynn Kimbrough, FEMA spokesperson. “NBC2 was the first in this area to make that connection and to see that the large number of fraudulent SBA letters coming in could be a signal that there was something more going on.”