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Federal officials warn public to be wary of disaster fraud

Federal officials are warning residents to be wary of fraud, including fake charities claiming to aid fire victims, in the wake of the Mendocino Complex fires.

The FBI and U.S. Attorney Alex Tse advised Northern California residents to immediately report any suspicious activity to law enforcement. They also urged residents to “apply a critical eye” to anyone “purporting to be working on behalf of disaster victims,” especially if the person is seeking personal or financial information.

“The FBI has seen criminals target every step of relief and recovery in the face of natural disasters,” Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett said in a news release.

In addition to fake charities, officials said fraud also may involve people submitting false claims for disaster relief.

Anyone who suspects fraudulent activity, including solicitations for disaster relief funds, is advised to contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud at disaster@leo.gov or at 866-720-5721. The telephone line is staffed by an operator at all hours.

The website is www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud.

Suspected fraudulent activity also can be referred to local and federal law enforcement.

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