How to protect yourself from price gouging
Police search for Hurricane Matthew opportunists
MIAMI – Anyone selling essentials such as water, gas, food and lumber at inflated prices during the next 30 days will suffer consequences, law enforcement authorities warned on Wednesday.
Floridians on the eastern coast were rushing to prepare for Hurricane Matthew, a category 4 storm that already left deaths and damage in Haiti, Cuba and the Bahamas.
"While the storm may not make landfall in Florida, scammers may still use the threat of the impact to prey on consumers," Attorney General Pam Bondi said.
Gov. Rick Scott asked anyone who witnessed price gouging -- the unlawful practice of inflating prices to profit from the high demand of a public emergency -- to report it to authorities.
Authorities were asking those within the areas at risk to be prepared. Scammers usually take advantage of the unprepared customers, police said.
The Florida statute punishing the price increases went into effect after Scott's state of emergency order.
Other essential commodities considered include storage facilities and dwelling. Scott asked witnesses or victims to call the Attorney General's Office hotline, 1-866-966-7226, or report it online.
The Miami-Dade County Police Department and the Broward Sheriff's Office were also investigating reports.
State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle was at the Miami-Dade Emergency Operations Center in Doral discussing the efforts to prevent victimization.
Prosecutors can charge gougers with a misdemeanor offense. Judges can sentence those found guilty with jail time and fines.
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