Hail, wind, fire and tornadoes can make the summer months a dangerous time to live in South Dakota. Unfortunately for many of us, when it comes to natural disasters it may not be a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’.
Before a storm, we recommend you visit Ready.gov for resources that can help you prepare your family, home and community for a possible emergency. AARP Live on RFD-TV also hosts two live call-in shows per year on the topic of disaster preparedness. Click here to watch our most recent show, and mark your calendars to join the conversation in September and have your questions answered by our emergency experts: Thursday, September 20, 9:00 p.m. CT / 8 p.m. MT on RFD-TV or online.
AARP has also developed resources that can help you safely and productively rebuild after a storm.
(RE) BUILDING A LIVABLE COMMUNITY
No town or city wants to experience the devastation and loss caused by a natural disaster. However, when such tragedies do occur, the recovery work can provide an opportunity to re-envision the community and rebuild it to provide the features and services that enable people of all ages, physical abilities and life stages to comfortably call the community home. The AARP Livable Communities Disaster Recovery Tool Kit is designed to support the mission of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) by providing policy information, tools and resources to support the types of recovery work that leads to greater community resiliency and future preparedness.
SPOT STORM SCAMMERS
After virtually every natural disaster, scammers show up to prey on those whose lives and homes have already been destroyed. Here are some of the scams you should be on the lookout for after a storm strikes:
- Charity Scams: typically the first gotcha out of the gate, pushing good-hearted, would-be donors to scammer-run websites. Personal information and credit card numbers are collected for supposed donations but that money never makes it to victims. For fraud-free fundraising, stick with names and reputations that are vetted through Charity Navigator, Charity Watch and Give.org.
- Rip-off Repairmen: known as ‘storm chasers’ will present themselves as roofers, carpenters, electricians and other tradesmen and promise a quick repair for an upfront payment. Some will take the money and run, while others do quick and shoddy work. To keep your wallet and home safe, ask your insurer to recommend approved contractors, verify names through the SD Better Business Bureau and get a copy of the contractor’s photo ID.
- Imposter Scams: Charity scammers aren’t the alone in playing a rip-off role. In past natural disasters, hoaxsters have posed as employees of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) or insurance companies. Under the guise of doing an inspection, they angle for personal and financial information. Others seek entry to homes to case for later burglary. Ask for identification, verify credentials, and keep in mind that FEMA doesn’t charge for any service.
- Investment Scams: Can you get big gains from the big storm? The Securities and Exchange Commission warns of companies “purportedly involved in cleanup efforts … Know that promises of fast and high profits, with little or no risk, are classic signs of fraud.”
- Flood Cars: If you’re car shopping, you can live hundreds of miles from a natural disaster and still get soaked. Each year tens of thousands of cars are damaged by floods to the point of being deemed a total loss by insurers; yet more than half wind up for sale, often on distant dealer lots. To avoid buying a flood car, enter its vehicle identification number (VIN) at VINCheck, Carfax or AutoCheck.
If you have been the target of these or other storm scams, please alert the SD Division of Consumer Protections by calling 1-800-300-1986 or visiting consumer.sd.gov. They can investigate these scams and warn other South Dakotans to stay vigilant. When it comes to fraud, vigilance is our number one weapon. You can join the Fraud Watch Network and receive alerts about scams happening in South Dakota. Any one of any age can join for free by visiting aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork or to receive Fraud Watch Network alerts by phone, call 1-866-542-8172.