POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Hurricane Ian downed a tree on Angela Bryant’s property in Polk City.

It didn’t hit anything. A friend helped her get rid of it. She moved on.

Then she heard a knock at the door on Sunday morning.

“He said he was here to investigate my FEMA claim. I said ‘I don’t have a FEMA claim’,” Bryant said. “He said, ‘So you didn’t apply for this?’ I said, ‘no.’ He said, ‘There was no damage?’ I said, ‘no.’ He did show me his badge. He had a FEMA ID-issued badge.”

The phone numbers and email addresses on file for the application were not Bryant’s.

“He said that he had run into several of these throughout his morning, that there were a lot of people that he was investigating and they had never made a claim,” said Bryant.

Bryant was not in need of assistance. Still, she is concerned about her personal information being exposed and scammers pocketing FEMA money allocated for hurricane victims.

“I think it’s horrible. I mean, these people that really need the help are not able to get assistance,” she said.

Her friend Jerrica Dempsey is one of those people.

“We had branches down and then it was a whole bunch of rain so then we just started going to the bathroom and the toilets wouldn’t flush and we were like, oh my God,” Dempsey said.

The storm flooded Dempsey’s newly-pumped septic tank in north Lakeland.

She got on a waitlist for service from her septic company and then tried to apply for FEMA assistance online.

“I did it on the 10th and it said, you’ve already applied so I’m like, what? I go back and I look. It wouldn’t let me log into my account. They had changed everything,” she said.

Dempsey said somebody had not only applied for assistance using her address and information but they had already received a payment.

She called FEMA.

“So I’m like – ‘what can I do?’ [FEMA said] ‘just fax your ID and your social in and they’ll get in contact with you’ and it’s been 2 weeks,” said Dempsey.

“Sadly it happens way too much. There are those that just pounce on that freedom of opportunity and it bogs down the system, essentially,” said Bruce Bouch, media relations specialist at FEMA.

According to Bouch, not every application requires an in-person assessment, which is one-way crooks are able to pounce.

“You want to take that information first, report it to your local police, sheriff’s office and get that process started. Then you want to contact FEMA,” he said.

FEMA can be contacted by phone at 800-621-FEMA or the FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 and at FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers.

These are locations open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., unless otherwise noted:

Tringali Rec Center, 3450 N Access Rd., Englewood, FL 34224
Hours: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.

Veterans Community Park, 1895 Veterans Park Dr., Naples, FL 34109

DeSoto Library: 125 N Hillsborough Ave., Arcadia, Fl 34266
Hours: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Wauchula Civic Center, 515 Civic Center Dr., Wauchula, FL 33873

Highlands County Extension Office, 4509 George Blvd., Sebring, FL 33875

First Baptist Church of Astor Lake County, 24731 Ann St., Astor, FL 32102

Lakes Regional Library, 15290 Bass Rd., Fort Myers, FL 33919
Hours: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Fort Myers DMS Building, 2295 Victoria Ave., Fort Myers, FL 33901
Hours: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Barnett Park, 4801 W. Colonial Dr., Orlando, FL 32808

Hart Memorial Central Library, 211 E. Dakin Ave., Kissimmee, FL 34741

W.H. Stuart Center, 1702 S. Holland Pkwy., Bartow, FL 33830

Shannon Staub Public Library, 4675 Career La., North Port, FL 34289

Seminole State College – Barbara Miller Automotive Center, 100 Weldon Blvd., Sanford, FL 32773

Wind Mitigation Building, 3111 Agricultural Center Dr., St. Augustine, FL 32092

Volusia County Health Department, 1845 Holsonback Dr., Daytona Beach, FL 32117

8 On Your Side told Dempsey about the Disaster Recovery Center in Bartow.

“I’ll definitely go down there now that I know that there’s actually a place. I thought it was all online,” she said.

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office recommends people contact the Florida Attorney General’s Internet Fraud Hotline at 866-966-7226.