ATLANTA – Georgia consumers are being warned to be aware of price gouging and scams due to Tropical Storm Ian.
Attorney General Chris Carr is warning consumers to be on the lookout for price gouging and scams in response to Tropical Storm Ian.
“Unfortunately, con artists will try to take advantage of those impacted by a weather-related disaster or individuals looking to donate to their neighbors in need,” said Carr. “As we continue to pray for the families and communities in the path of Tropical Storm Ian, we want to remind consumers of the important steps they can take to protect themselves from price gouging and scams. We know this is a difficult and scary time for many, and anyone who is artificially increasing costs on the backs of hardworking Georgians will be held accountable.”
Governor Brian Kemp recently issued a State of Emergency for all 159 Georgia counties, making state resources available to local governments and entities within the storm’s impact area. The emergency declaration took effect at 7 a.m. on Sept. 29, 2022, and will remain in place until 11:59 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 28, 2022. Read the emergency order here.
The Executive Order invokes the Price Gouging Statute as it pertains to goods and services necessary to support preparation, response, and recovery activities related to Tropical Storm Ian, including motor fuel, diesel fuel and other petroleum products.
While the State of Emergency remains in effect, businesses may not sell, or offer to sell at retail, any goods or services identified by the Governor at a price higher than that at which the goods or services were sold or offered for sale before the declaration of the State of Emergency. Price increases on goods or services are permitted only if they accurately reflect an increase in the cost of new stock or the cost to transport it, plus the retailer’s average markup percentage applied during the 10 days immediately prior to the declaration of a State of Emergency.
The current State of Emergency for Supply Chain Disruptions also remains in effect and expires on Oct. 12, 2022.
In addition, the State of Emergency for Severe Flooding, which offers protections to residents of Chattooga and Floyd counties, remains in effect through Oct. 4, 2022.
The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division offers the following tips to help consumers avoid scams and other fraud in the aftermath of a storm.
- Steer clear of any contractor who asks for full payment up-front, only accepts payment in cash, or refuses to provide you with a written contract.
- Avoid door-to-door offers for home repair work. Instead, ask friends and neighbors for referrals.
- Be skeptical of any contractor that offers to pay your insurance deductible or offers other no-cost incentives, as these can be signs of fraud. Always talk to your insurance company before committing to any storm-related repairs or inspections.
- Ask contractors for references and check them out.
- Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if there are any complaints against the business.
- Ensure that the contractor has the required licensing and/or affiliation:
- Tree Removal: Make sure the person has a valid arborist license by visiting the International Society of Arboriculture’s website at www.isa-arbor.com.
- Water Damage and Mold: Only hire businesses that are local and are qualified in mold remediation and property restoration. To find local contractors and restorers, check with the Society of Cleaning and Restoration Technicians and the Restoration Industry Association.
- Contractors: General contractors, electricians, plumbers, and heating and air conditioning contractors must be licensed with the Secretary of State’s Office. To look up a contractor, visit sos.ga.gov. Please note that certain specialty occupations such as roofers, tree removal services, painters, drywall contractors and repair handymen are not required to be licensed by the state.
- Legitimate contractors should be able to provide the following:
- Business license
- General liability insurance
- Workers compensation insurance
- Written manufacturer warranties
- Written labor warranties
Fraudulent charities tend to pop-up quickly following a tragedy or natural disaster.
It is fairly easy for a scammer to set up a realistic-looking website, copy a logo, or create a name that sounds very close to that of a well-known charity. Consumers should also be careful when responding to ads or posts they see on social media or crowdfunding sites, as these are not always legitimate – even if they have been shared or liked by your friends. It is very important to take your time to review an organization thoroughly before you give someone your money.
The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division offers the following tips to help Georgians avoid charity fraud.
- Consider donating only to charities you know and trust.
- The following websites can help you determine whether an organization is reputable and how likely it is to use your money effectively and efficiently:
- Find out whether the charity plans to share your contact information with other charitable organizations or marketing companies. This commonly occurs, which is why people often receive solicitations from other charities after making a donation. You can review a charitable organization’s donor privacy policies by visiting Charity Navigator and BBB Wise Giving Alliance.
- Never give out your credit card or bank account information in response to an unsolicited phone call, email or text. Instead, ask the person to mail you the information.
Visit our website for additional tips.
Consumers who believe they may have encountered a scam or price gouging should file a report with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division online or by calling (404) 651-8600 or (800) 869-1123. More information about price gouging can be found here.
Report suspicious charitable solicitations to the Georgia Secretary of State’s Charities Division online or by calling (470) 312-2640.
Always stay weather-aware with these helpful tips from the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency: https://gema.georgia.gov/plan-prepare/alerts-and-warnings.