Bellaire woman believes someone used her identity to steal FEMA hurricane relief funds

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Woman's identity seemingly stolen for FEMA funds. (KTRK)

A Bellaire woman believes someone used her identity to steal federal money aimed for Hurricane Harvey victims.

Many of Jayne Finkowski-Rivera's neighbors suffered flood damage. Thankfully, her Bellaire home remained dry.

So, she was surprised when a FEMA letter arrived at her house.

"I was actually fairly mystified because we were very lucky and had no damage to our home or our property," Finkowski-Rivera said. "To get a letter from FEMA, I thought it was going to be some general letter."

Inside, she found a completed application, with her social security number, address, and partially correct name, and number.

"It's got all of the hallmarks," Finkowski-Rivera said. "It's got the cover letter. It's got the account number. Everything about it looks extremely appropriate."

After receiving the application, another letter arrived. This time, saying $500 is deposited into her account. An account that doesn't belong to her.
"It is just very appalling to know that someone has money that should be going to someone who needs it," Finkowski-Rivera said.

Right now, FEMA is giving Harvey impacted neighbors $500.

Here's how it works. Neighbors fill out an online form, and provide information. The money is sent before an agent visits the home.

In this case, FEMA is investigating to see if someone used her name and social security number to steal money.

FEMA said anyone caught falsifying information faces a federal crime.
The agency hasn't heard of anyone doing this, but says scams happen.

FEMA says if this happens to you, contact its fraud hotline, and police.

"If at any point you have any doubts, cut it off, end the conversation, and contact your local law enforcement," FEMA spokesperson Peter Herrick said.

Finkowski-Rivera did just that.

She's also making sure her personal information wasn't used elsewhere.

"There's a circle somewhere in Dante's inferno for them," Finkowski-Rivera said.

FEMA's fraud hotline number is 1-800-323-8603.

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