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Attorney General Stein’s July Column

Don’t Get Caught in the Eye this Hurricane Season

Attorney General Josh Stein
July 2024

Hurricane season is now upon us in North Carolina and will run through November. Along with the storm surge these natural disasters may bring, they also may bring a new wave of scammers. These criminals will try to take advantage of vulnerable people before and after a hurricane. Don’t let yourself get caught in a financial storm. Follow our tips to keep you and your loved ones safe from scams this hurricane season.

Do your research. If a storm damages your property, you may need repairs. Be sure to get a written estimate from contractors before rushing into a deal. Getting an estimate will ensure you are not getting overcharged or scammed, as well as give you to opportunity to compare prices from other companies. Check out a business’s credentials and visit Better Business Bureau or call our office to make sure the company does not have complaints against them.

Do not pay upfront. Some companies may pressure you to pay the full cost up front before they start the work, but then will fall short of what was asked of them. Pay your contractors as you go, once you are satisfied with the work they have done, and hold back a percentage until the job is done. If a business is requiring a downpayment, do not pay them without getting a written contract first. Pay with a credit card when possible so you have added protection in case of a dispute.

Be wary of limited-time assistance. Some businesses may offer special “now or never” deals to your family following hurricane damage. A lot of these offers might come directly to your door, with out-of-state companies showing up at your doorstep and offering to do work immediately. If the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t sign unless you’ve done your research.

Be on the lookout for price gouging. Some businesses will raise their prices to exploit times of crisis. Remember, if the Governor declares a state of emergency, North Carolina’s price gouging law goes into effect. Report suspicions of price gouging to our office at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or so we can investigate. Since 2018, AG Stein has brought about 12 price gouging lawsuits against 29 different defendants. He has obtained 14 judgments or settlements totaling more than $1 million against 25 defendants, including a $274,000 settlement that was the largest price gouging settlement in state history.

In addition to keeping an eye out for scams, please plan ahead this hurricane season. If a storm may be coming in, make sure your family has an emergency plan laid out, including evacuation routes, and extra supplies ready to go. Keep updated copies or photos of your family’s important documents in a handy location. Stock up on necessary items like a flashlight, batteries, nonperishable food, and bottled water. Check out for more information to stay prepared.