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Why consumers should be aware of price gouging ahead of Hurricane Florence

RICHMOND, Va. -- Price gouging is a big concern during a natural disaster, as Hurricane Florence is expected to be along the east coast.

The thought of property loss and loss of life are often on the minds of those directly in the line of fire when a hurricane is barreling through.

Virginia leaders say the last thing people need to deal with is being taken advantage of by price gougers.

Elaine Lidholm is the director of communication for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, an agency that investigates gas and motor fuel price gouging.

“We go out and do an investigation and we see what the price at the pump is at that point and time, were also look at pumps in the area to see what they are,” said Lidholm.

“If yours isn't... very dramatic of an increase maybe 25 percent or so over the prevailing price, it's not price gouging. It's life,” she added.

Attorney General Mark Herring said a supplier can face penalties if they offer unconscionable prices during the thirty days following a declared state of emergency.

Some items and services covered by these protections include water, ice, food, generators, batteries, home repair materials and services and tree removal services.

Lidholm says once a person files a complaint and they investigate. Then the Attorney General’s office determines if the law was broken.

“They need to understand if they call or email, that's considered a complaint. But if they just call and say they're price gouging at this store that's not enough. We need to know what station, the actual address, intersection, some kind of landmark,” explained Lidholm.

If you suspect price gouging, fill out a claim form through the Attorney General’s website, or provide all the info to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services so investigators can get to the bottom of it.