Scam Artist Tries to Pull a FEMA Con in Panama City Beach

There are still thousands of hurricane evacuees struggling the get back on their feet, but apparently someone is trying to take advantage of their situations.

Now, a con artist apparently tried to scam one of the evacuees staying here in Bay County.

Rick Bieniak came to Panama City Beach after Hurricane Katrina forced him out of his home in Biloxi, Mississippi. He's been living at the Boardwalk Beach Resort with the assistance of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Over the last four months, Rick has gotten used to dealing with FEMA personnel, so last week when he received a call from someone who said they were a FEMA worker, he wasn't surprised, at least not at first.

"But when he asked for my bank account number, I got a little suspicious and I asked him for his ID number. See, one of the things FEMA employees always do is give you their first name and the ID number, and when he wouldn't give me that I got a little more suspicious."

So what are you supposed to do if you receive a call like this? FEMA representatives say the answer is simple. You shouldn't be receiving these types of calls.

Karen Szulczewski is a FEMA public information officer and says, "Never give out that information to anybody who calls you. The only time FEMA will ever ask for your bank account number is when you make that first call to register and if you were interested in direct deposit."

If you are concerned with the authenticity of a FEMA phone call, ask the caller for their FEMA ID number to prove their identity. Another way to double check that the phone call is legit, is to call back FEMA at 1-800-621-FEMA and verify the employee's ID number.


8195 Front Beach Road Panama City Beach, FL 32407 Station: 850-234-7777 News: 850-230-5221 Fax: 850-233-6647 FCC Form 398
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