EPA warns Northern California residents affected by wildfires to beware of scams

The EPA is urging residents to beware of impostors asking for personal financial information, such as Social Security and bank account numbers.|

The Environmental Protection Agency is alerting local residents affected by the recent wildfires of possible fraudsters posing as EPA agents and seeking personal financial information by phone.

EPA officials said Wednesday that in their current work responding to the North Coast wildfires, they are not requesting such information.

“We are not asking for any personal financial information like Social Security numbers and bank account numbers,” said EPA spokeswoman Margot Perez-Sullivan.

The EPA received a call Wednesday morning from a Santa Rosa resident who said they were contacted by someone claiming to be with the EPA, Perez-Sullivan said.

The fraudster said the local resident was being awarded a grant but needed to provide some financial information.

The resident suspected fraud and contacted the EPA.

Perez-Sullivan said the EPA’s singular task in Sonoma and Napa counties is to remove household hazardous waste from damaged or destroyed property. EPA staff have been contacting local residents affected by the fires, but only about waste removal.

“We have been contacting certain homeowners or property owners on a case by case basis ... to let us know when we can access a property,” Perez-Sullivan said.

“We are only contacting people regarding household hazardous waste collection.”

Anyone who receives a suspicious call should decline the request and promptly call the EPA Inspector General’s hotline at 888-546-8740, as well as the California Attorney General’s office at 800-952-5225.

A complaint can be filed at oag.ca.gov/complaint. You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 707-521-5213 or martin.espinoza@pressdemocrat.com.

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