Western Kentuckians are already vulnerable, and face another threat in the aftermath of the storm: scammers.
“It’s gut-wrenching to see people who are potentially victims after everything they’ve already endured; you know there are going to be people from the outside area who are going to try and take advantage,” LaDonna Koebel, executive director of the attorney general’s office, said.
Within the past week, the attorney general’s office started receiving reports of price gouging.
Reports include hotels doubling their rates post the storm event, retailers doubling the price of food and essential supplies like gas and propane, for heating fuel. One complaint reported a gallon of milk selling for $7.
“If it’s grossly excessive after the storm, the prices have gone up in a grossly excessive way as compared to what they were before the storm, that’s something we’re going to look into,” Koebel said.
There were also reports of fraudulent, unlicensed contractors approaching homeowners, taking their money, and doing no work.
“So the AG office has the authority to investigate claims of price gouging and to go after those retailers for the amount of money in excess what they should have been charged and get money back to consumers. And also to levy pretty steep fines against retailers who might try to do this,” Koebel said.
Scam complaints of identity theft and people impersonating Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officers were reported as well. If the scams rise to the criminal level, Koebel said they’ll partner with local law enforcement.
“With scams, we work with local law enforcement and other agencies, sometimes federal authorities, it really just depends, that could be a criminal action depending on what the scammer does. If they’ve taken the money and not taken action, we’ll be in touch with local law enforcement as well,” Koebel said.
The Attorney General’s Office is urging anyone who suspects price gouging or other problems in the wake of the storm to call the Natural Disaster Fraud Hotline Immediately.
The hotline number is: 502-696-5485
To submit a complaint fill out the Price Gouging Complaint Form