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Attorney General, American Red Cross: Prepare for hurricane season early to prevent scams

By Staff | Jun 1, 2009

On the opening day of the 2009 Atlantic hurricane season,

Attorney General Bill McCollum joined the American Red Cross to encourage

Florida residents and guests to prepare early for hurricanes, thereby

avoiding scams like price gouging when storms develop. The Attorney General

noted that aside from the physical devastation storms can cause, hurricane

season is also a time when con artists try to capitalize on the

vulnerabilities of storm victims by price gouging on essential supplies

such as food, water, ice, gasoline or a place to stay during an evacuation.

“Hurricane season breeds not only bad weather, but also potential bad

actors in our state,” said Attorney General McCollum. “The best way to

avoid becoming a victim of price gouging or any other storm-related scam is

to be prepared well ahead of the storm.”

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.

Price gouging should be reported to the Attorney General’s hotline at

1-866-9-NO-SCAM (1-866-966-7226).

Floridians as well as those who may plan to visit or stay in Florida

during hurricane season should have a plan ready. This should include

stocking up on necessary supplies, locating hurricane shelters well in

advance, preparing a personal evacuation plan and protecting any property

from high winds and water. Pets should receive special attention in any

preparedness plans as many shelters will not allow pets.

“The American Red Cross is proud to partner with the Attorney General’s

Office to help Florida residents. We see the devastation caused by

disasters and we look forward to working with the Attorney General to help

disaster victims be aware of potential scams and other threats,” said David

Chayer, Chief Executive Officer for the Capital Area Chapter of the

American Red Cross.

Attorney General McCollum also reminded 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 personally identifiable 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.

The Attorney General’s Office can provide assistance and information to

Florida’s residents and guests before, during and after storms and other

disasters. More information is available on the Attorney General’s website

at http://www.myfloridalegal.com and on the American Red Cross’s website at http://www.RedCross.org.