The Federal Emergency Management Agency may have put the personally identifying information of millions of disaster survivors at risk of fraud and identity theft, according to a recent report from the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General.
The March 15 report said that during an audit of FEMA’s Transitional Sheltering Assistance program, it found that the agency shared and subsequently exposed the personal data of 2.3 million survivors of a number of natural disasters that included the 2017 California wildfires as well as hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.
Survivors of these incidents provided their private information to FEMA in order to obtain assistance such as temporary housing. The audit found that FEMA jeopardized private information that the agency collected about applicants when it “unnecessarily” released some of that information to an undisclosed contractor handling its TSA program.
FEMA, the report stated, shared with the contractor “more than 20 unnecessary data fields for survivors participating in the TSA program,” including bank names, account numbers, and home addresses.