If you were hit by Ida, here's how to avoid scams, injuries, price-gouging

Sept. 2, 2021

By Teresa Murray, Consumer Watchdog

Hurricane Ida tore a path of destruction from the Gulf Coast all the way to New York and New Jersey. The billions of dollars in damage from flooding, wind and tornadoes mean claims, repairs and rebuilding for way too many people. Here are some tips to avoid scams and stay safe in the days and weeks ahead.

  • Be on guard for price gouging: Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and 32 other states have anti-price gouging laws that protect consumers from prices that are inflated after an emergency. If a business is hiking prices for gas, water, building supplies, food, ice or other needs, people should report it to their state attorney general’s office immediately. A list of contacts for state attorneys general is below.

  • Use generators with caution: If your electricity is out and you're relying on a generator in your home or someone else's, make sure the generator is outdoors and isn't in any kind of enclosed structure. Authorities along the Gulf Coast are reporting dozens of people hospitalized in separate incidents after being poisoned by carbon monoxide, because generators weren't properly ventilated.
    At least a few victims have died.
    Also, make sure generators are properly grounded and kept dry and disconnect the power going into your home or building.

  • Watch out for fraud and scams: After past disasters, con artists have posed as federal employees, insurance agents and housing inspectors to steal information and money. Scam robocalls have promised victims money for simple information. Ask for appropriate identification from anyone who stops by. 

  • Don’t give out personal information such as Social Security numbers, bank account information, policy numbers or anything else to someone you didn’t contact independently. 

  • Remember: FEMA doesn't charge anyone to submit an application. 

  • File claims quickly: Report your claim as soon as possible because insurance companies generally process claims first come, first served, according to the Consumer Federation of America. Also, insurers should not raise your rate for filing a hurricane claim or fail to renew your policy for filing one, CFA said. Make detailed lists of losses, including living expenses and debris removal, and keep all receipts.

  • Get estimates: If possible, get multiple estimates from contractors to help you file a claim that will be accurate when it’s time to pay the bill. 
  • Avoid large deposits: Don’t give anyone a large deposit or down payment before they provide their goods or services. Make any deposits by credit card if possible because you have additional protections by law. Never pay in cash or with a wire transfer or gift card.

  • Vet contractors: Homeowners should use only licensed contractors with verifiable references to work on their property. When interviewing contractors, homeowners should ask for proof of their insurance and bonding, and about their past experience repairing damage from flooding or other disasters and their mold remediation practices. Each state has a Board of Contractors that offers a full list of licensed contractors. Homeowners can also get advice from FEMA.

  • Make sure your food is safe: Hurricanes and tropical storms carry a lot of dangerous bacteria that can contaminate food or food preparation materials. The basic rule is if food has touched any flood waters, even if it’s still in the packaging, it should be thrown out. Discard any containers with visible damage. Some undamaged food may be salvageable, if it didn’t require refrigeration. Use bottled water until local authorities have confirmed the local water supply is safe. And completely disinfect all food preparation surfaces, utensils, baby bottles, cutting boards, etc

  • Watch out for identity theft: Identity theft can compound your problems after a hurricane. Storm victims are particularly vulnerable. U.S. law allows anyone to freeze their credit files at no cost. People can find out more here about how to protect themselves from identity theft. 

  • Avoid scammers posing as charities: Con-artists will try to take advantage of someone else's misfortune and people's big hearts by soliciting donations that won't really go to help disaster victims after all. Check out this guide from the Federal Trade Commission on donating wisely and avoiding ripoffs.

How can I report price gouging?

You should report price gouging to the company and your attorney general. Contact information for each state’s Attorney General is listed below.

Alabama 

Online Report Form: https://www.alabamaag.gov/consumercomplaint

Phone Number: 334-242-7335 

Alaska

Online Report Form: http://www.law.state.ak.us/department/civil/consumer/cp_complaint.html

Phone Number: 907-269-5200

E-mail: consumerprotection@alaska.gov 

Arizona

Online Report Form: https://consumer-complaint.azag.gov/publiccomplaint/begin.aspx

Phone Number: (602) 542-5763

E-mail: consumerinfo@azag.gov 

Arkansas

Online Report Form: https://arkansasag.gov/covid19/report/

Phone Number: (501) 682-2007

E-mail: consumer@ArkansasAG.gov

California

Online Report Form: https://oag.ca.gov/contact/consumer-complaint-against-business-or-company

Colorado

Online Report Form: https://coag.gov/file-complaint/report-consumer-fraud/

Phone Number: 720-508-6000

Connecticut

Online Report Form: https://www.dir.ct.gov/ag/complaint/

Phone Number: 860-808-5420

E-mail: Attorney.General@ct.gov

Delaware 

Online Report Form: https://attorneygeneral.delaware.gov/fraud/cpu/complaint/

Phone Number: (302) 577-8600

E-mail: attorney.general@delaware.gov 

Florida

Online Report Form: http://www.myfloridalegal.com/Contact.nsf/PriceGouging!OpenForm

Phone Number: (866) 9NO-SCAM  

Georgia

Online Report Form: http://ocp.ga.gov/form/consumer-complaint/step1

Phone Number: (404) 651-8600

Hawaii

Report Form: https://cca.hawaii.gov/ocp/files/2018/02/Complaint-Form-and-Instruction-2018-WEB.pdf

Phone Number: (808) 586-2630

E-mail: ocp@dcca.hawaii.gov 

Idaho

Online Report Form: https://www.ag.idaho.gov/office-resources/online-forms/?form=File%20a%20Complaint&complaint=Consumer%20Complaint

Phone Number: 208-334-2400

Illinois

Online Report Form: https://ccformsubmission.ilattorneygeneral.net/

Phone Number: 1-800-386-5438 (Chicago)

1-800-243-0618 (Springfield)

1-800-243-0607 (Carbondale)

Línea Gratuita en Español: 1-866-310-8398

Indiana

Online Report Form: https://indianaattorneygeneral.secure.force.com/ConsumerComplaintForm

Phone Number: 317.232.6330

Iowa

Online Report Form: https://www.iowaattorneygeneral.gov/for-consumers/file-a-consumer-complaint/complaint-form

Phone Number: 515-281-5926

E-mail: consumer@ag.iowa.gov

Kansas

Online Report Form: https://ag.ks.gov/complaint-center/consumer

Phone Number: (785) 296-3751 

Kentucky

Online Report Form: https://secure.kentucky.gov/formservices/AttorneyGeneral/PriceGougingComplaintForm

Phone Number: 1-888-432-9257

Louisiana

Online Report Form: http://www.ag.state.la.us/Form/Consumer/Dispute

Phone Number: 225-326-6465 

Maine

Online Report Form: https://www.maine.gov/ag/consumer/complaints/complaint_form.shtml

Phone Number: (207) 626-8849

E-mail: consumer.mediation@maine.gov

Maryland

Online Report Form: https://web.oag.state.md.us/editor/customer/onlineformhelpers/formviewer.aspx?filename=MUGeneral.htm

Phone Number: 410-528-8662

E-mail: consumer@oag.state.md.us

Massachusetts

Online Report Form: https://www.mass.gov/how-to/file-a-consumer-complaint

Phone Number: (617) 727-8400

E-mail: ago@state.ma.us

Michigan

Online Report Form: https://secure.ag.state.mi.us/complaints/consumer.aspx

Phone Number: 517-335-7622

E-mail: miag@michigan.go 

Minnesota

Online Report Form: https://www.ag.state.mn.us/Office/Forms/ConsumerAssistanceRequest.asp

Phone Number: (651) 296-3353

Mississippi

Phone Number: 601-359-3680

Missouri

Online Report Form: http://ago.mo.gov/app/consumercomplaint

Phone Number: 800-392-8222

E-mail: consumer.help@ago.mo.gov

Montana

Online Report Form: https://app.doj.mt.gov/apps/oscar/complaintstart.aspx

Phone Number: 406-444-4500

E-mail: contactocp@mt.gov

Nebraska

Online Report Form: https://protectthegoodlife.nebraska.gov/file-consumer-complaint

Phone Number: (800) 727-6432

E-mail: ago.consumer@nebraska.gov

Nevada

Online Report Form: http://ag.nv.gov/Complaints/File_Complaint/

Phone Number: (775) 684-1100

New Hampshire 

Online Report Form (requires registration): https://www.doj.nh.gov/consumer/complaints/index.htm

Phone Number: 603-271-3641

E-mail: DOJ-CPB@doj.nh.gov 

New Jersey

Online Report Form: https://njconsumeraffairs.state.nj.us/file-a-complaint/

Phone Number: 973.504.6200

E-mail: askconsumeraffairs@dca.lps.state.nj.us 

New Mexico

Online Report Form: https://secure.nmag.gov/ecs

Phone Number: (505) 490-4060: 

New York

Online Report Form: https://ag.ny.gov/price-gouging-complaint-form

Phone Number: 1-800-771-7755 

North Carolina

Online Report Form: https://ncdoj.gov/file-a-complaint/consumer-complaint/

Phone Number: (877)-5NO-SCAM

North Dakota

Online Report Form: https://attorneygeneral.nd.gov/consumer-resources/consumer-complaints/general-complaint

Phone Number: 1-800-472-2600

E-mail: ndag@nd.gov 

Ohio

Online Report Form: https://www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/Individuals-and-Families/Consumers/File-A-Complaint.aspx

Phone Number: 800-282-0515

Oklahoma

Phone Number: (405) 521-2029

E-mail: consumerprotection@oag.ok.gov

Oregon

Online Report Form: https://justice.oregon.gov/consumercomplaints/OnlineComplaints/OnlineComplaintForm/en

Phone Number: 503-378-8442 

Pennsylvania 

Online Report Form: https://www.attorneygeneral.gov/submit-a-complaint/

Phone Number: 717-787-3391

Rhode Island

Online Report Form: https://riag.wufoo.com/forms/q1851amb1bdd4d5/

Phone Number: (401) 274-4400

E-mail: consumers@riag.ri.gov

South Carolina

Online Report Form (requires registration): https://applications.sc.gov/DCAComplaintSystem/Login/ConsumerLogin.aspx

Phone Number: 803-737-3953

E-mail: pricegouging@scag.gov

South Dakota

Online Report Form: https://atg.sd.gov/complaintform.aspx

Phone Number: (605) 773-4400

E-mail: consumerhelp@state.sd.us

Tennessee 

Online Report Form (requires registration): https://www.tn.gov/attorneygeneral/working-for-tennessee/consumer/file-a-complaint.html

Phone Number: (615) 741-4737

Texas

Online Report Form: http://txoag.force.com/CPDOnlineForm

Phone Number: (800) 621-0508

Utah

Online Report Form: https://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/contact/complaint-form/

Phone Number: 1-801-366-0260

E-mail: uag@agutah.gov

Vermont

Online Report Form: https://agocapcomplaint.atg.state.vt.us/forms/consumer-assistance-program-complaint-form/

Phone Number: (802) 656-3183

E-mail: AGO.CAP@vermont.gov

Virginia 

Report Form: https://www.oag.state.va.us/consumer-protection/files/PriceGougingComplaintFormOAG.pdf

Phone Number: (804) 786-2042

Washington

Online Report Form: https://fortress.wa.gov/atg/formhandler/ago/ComplaintForm.aspx

Phone Number: 1-206-464-6684

West Virginia 

Online Report Form: https://ago.wv.gov/Pages/consumercomplaint.aspx

Phone Number: 304-558-8986

E-mail: consumer@wvago.gov

Wisconsin

Online Report Form: https://datcp.wi.gov/Pages/Programs_Services/FileConsumerComplaint.aspx

Phone Number: (800) 422-7128 

E-mail: DATCPHotline@wisconsin.gov

Wyoming

Online Report Form: http://ag.wyo.gov/cpu/consumer-complaints

Phone Number: 307-777-6397

E-mail: ag.consumer@wyo.gov