Attorney General Pam Bondi News Release
May 31, 2011
Contact: Whitney Ray
Phone: (850) 245-0150
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Attorney General Bondi Issues Consumer Advisory Urging Floridians to Prepare for Hurricane Season

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.–Attorney General Pam Bondi today issued a consumer advisory calling on Florida residents and visitors to be aware of the dangers the hurricane season can bring and urging Floridians to make necessary preparations well in advance.

“As hurricane season quickly approaches, I encourage all Floridians to prepare now for the possibility of a storm,” said Attorney General Bondi. “Unfortunately, price gouging, identity theft, and fraud often follow a natural disaster, and Floridians should be on their guard for such wrongdoing. Anyone who is a victim of their practices should contact my office immediately.”

Florida law prohibits extreme increases in the price of essential commodities such as food, water, hotels, ice, gasoline, lumber and equipment needed as a direct result of an officially declared emergency. Violators of the price gouging statute are subject to civil penalties of $1,000 per violation and up to a total of $25,000 for multiple violations committed in a single 24-hour period. In addition to the civil penalties for price gouging, state law criminalizes the sale of goods and services to the public without possession of an occupational license. Violators of the law can be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor. Price gouging should be reported to the Attorney General’s hotline at 1-866-9-NO-SCAM (1-866-966-7226).

Attorney General Bondi also reminds residents and guests that while price gouging is an issue more commonly associated with hurricanes, identity theft and other scams deserve attention as well. Floridians should take the necessary precautions to safeguard personal documents or other important information. Often in the wake of natural disasters, papers containing personal identity information are misplaced or fall into the wrong hands, complicating the recovery process and putting citizens at risk for identity theft. Scam artists may also attempt to defraud hurricane victims by “selling” products or services they never intend to deliver.