Consumers should look out for price gouging ahead of Hurricane Florence

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ROANOKE, Va (WDBJ7) While most people are preparing for Hurricane Florence, folks like the Better Business Bureau's Julie Wheeler are preparing to look out for price gougers.

"Virginia has declared a state of emergency," she said Thursday. "And once that declaration occurs, price gouging becomes illegal."

That means any business that over charges for necessities during the state of emergency is breaking the law.

"Where it typically happens is with gasoline. I've heard of it some with water, and obviously generators are a hot item," she said.

But it's not just products.

Services from home repair to tree removal are covered by Virginia's anti-Price Gouging law.

For consumers who think they've been victimized, "there is a form you can complete, providing copies of your receipts," said Wheeler. "You also can call and discuss specific situations"

That form can be found online as the "Price Gouging Complaint form" from the Virginia Attorney General.

And for any businesses that may be tempted to jack up their prices, Wheeler has a warning.

"It's not taken lightly by the AG's office," said Wheeler. "They get one complaint on a business, or they get five complaints on a business, and there are pretty hefty fines and it's per incident."

Wheeler encourages consumers to do their homework, too. Know how much you should be paying before you pay it.

If you're still not sure, reach out to the BBB or the Virginia Attorney General's office.