“When people are desperate and afraid, they are more likely to make a bad financial decision,” Attorney General Josh Stein told Stateline. 

Major events and calamities are easy fodder for scammers, and the coronavirus is no exception. The North Carolina Department of Justice, which Stein heads, has a form on the NCDOJ website to file complaints for price gougers. The price gouging service provides an outlet for North Carolinians to raise awareness about people or businesses that are jacking up the cost of items to capitalize on uncertainty and fear.

Earlier in March, when Governor Cooper declared a state of emergency, the state’s price gouging laws went into effect. 

“It is rare for a state to interfere with commerce,” Stein told Stateline. But instances where the most vulnerable in society are preyed upon, like a pandemic, are an exception to that rule. 

“It is illegal to charge excessive prices during a state of emergency,” Stein said in a press release on price gouging issued March 10. “If you see businesses taking advantage of this crisis, let my office know and we will work to hold them accountable.” 

North Carolina has strong protections for consumers against price gouging, and Stein leveraged the Department of Justice to secure hundreds of thousands of dollars in judgments in the wake of Hurricanes Michael and Florence in 2018. 

Read more about the efforts of attorneys general across the nation in the full Stateline article.