Hurricanes bring widespread destruction with them but they also bring out the best of human nature when residents and communities pull together to help each another recover.
Unfortunately, hurricanes can also reveal the shady side of some individuals and businesses when they take advantage of a hurricane or other crisis to inflate prices excessively.
Price-gouging takes many forms, from a $10 gallon of gas to thousands of dollars for a tree removal.
As Hurricane Florence made landfall in the Carolinas, government officials urged residents to report any instances of price gouging they encounter.
“My office is here to protect North Carolinians from scams and frauds,” said North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein. “That is true all the time – but especially during severe weather. It is against the law to charge an excessive price during a state of emergency. If you see a business taking advantage of this storm, please let my office know so we can hold them accountable.”
Under North Carolina law, anyone found guilty of price gouging because of a hurricane or other emergency can be forced to refund the customers they scammed. Price gougers may also face penalties of $5,000 for each instance of price gouging they engaged in, according to The Charlotte Observer.
South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster declared a state of emergency on Saturday as hurricane models showed the storm likely to impact his state. He also called the state’s price gouging laws into effect.
Under South Carolina law, anyone caught selling or renting goods or lodging at excessively high rates is subject to penalties of $5,000-$15,000 per violation. They can also be charged with a misdemeanor offense, which carries fines up to $1,000 and/or 30 days in jail.
Carri Grube Lybarker, spokeswoman for South Carolina’s Consumer Affairs agency, told the Greenville News that “Folks should look out for scams in general. Scam artists like to follow the headlines and take advantage of people in vulnerable positions.”
“Meanwhile, for people who evacuated to neighboring states like South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee or Georgia and see questionably high prices for goods or services there, those states’ attorneys general are the proper officials to contact about price gouging there,” according to The Charlotte Observer.