Top watchdogs are on alert to help protect from price gouging, scams

On Your Side Tonight: Price Gouging: What is being done to protect you from being ripped off

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) – North Carolina’s top watchdogs are prepared to help protect the public from price gouging and scams.

Both North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein and US Attorney Andrew Murray, who covers charlotte as the US Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina, told WBTV about the work their offices are doing to crack down on people looking to take advantage of others during the pandemic.

“It’s a priority of the Attorney General and it’s a priority of this office,” Murray said, referring to US Attorney General William Barr.

“We’re looking to detect and prosecute anyone that’s going to take advantage of this pandemic and take advantage of vulnerable individuals,” Murray continued.

Murray said that his office had not yet had to investigate a specific case in its jurisdiction. Any concerned member of the public can report a possible scam to the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline (1-866-720-5721) or e-mail NCDF at disaster@leo.gov.

Meanwhile, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein said his office was also prepared to investigate scams but urged the public to be vigilant to keep from falling victim.

“Just be very skeptical,” Stein said. “There are no cures. There are no vaccines. And, so these snake oil salesmen pitching some miracle cure, they’re full of it and they’re trying to steal your money.”

But Stein said his office had already received 345 complaints of price gouging from across the state. Half of those complaints, Steins aid, dealt with groceries with the remaining complaints dealing with cleaning products and hand sanitizers.

You can report price gouging on the NC Department of Justice website.

“If the company, if the seller, cannot justify their new price and it’s outrageously excessive, we will enforce the law against them,” Stein said.

So far, he said, his office had not taken action to shut down a seller found to have been price gouging but his office was investigating several credible reports.

“The message to consumers is always to take care,” Stein said. “If you see a retailer charging an outrageously excessive price, let my office know. We’ll investigate if it’s price gouging and if it is, we will aggressively enforce the law.”

Murray said his office would work with multiple federal law enforcement agencies to investigate possible complaints.

“We’re doing everything we can,” Murray said. “We’re remaining vigilant to make sure we can protect the public from these monsters, quite frankly, that will prey upon the innocent.

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