As catastrophic and historic flooding takes hold of southeast Texas, evacuees and residents have faced price gouging for essential items like water and shelter.
There have been more than 500 complaints filed about price gouging during the disastrous storm Harvey, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton told CNBC. That includes cases of water sold for $99 and hotel rooms going for three or four times their usual price, Paxton said.
Texas state law prohibits charging higher prices for necessities like gas, lodging, food and drinking water, among other items, during disasters like Harvey. Fines for the crime range from $20,000 per instance — or, if the person being sold the item is 65 or older, can run up to $250,000.
On Friday, Paxton created a "Consumer Protection Hotline" to track instances of price gouging as a result of Hurricane Harvey. “Texans affected by Hurricane Harvey should take steps to protect themselves and report any alleged price gouging or scam contractors to the Office of the Attorney General," Paxton said in a statement.
A number of shelters have opened for those escaping the rising floodwater currently submerging the nation's fourth-largest city, and Airbnb is waiving fees for evacuees and volunteers for homes near Dallas and Austin. The life-threatening flooding, which began over the weekend, has killed at least nine people, according to the Associated Press. The disaster is estimated to cause billions of dollars worth of damage and officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency anticipate to be in the area for "years."
There are a number of ways to help those impacted by the flooding created by Hurricane Harvey, including donating to the Salvation Army or Save the Children, among other causes. However, like price gouging, some scammers take advantage of disasters to create fake charitable causes and crowdfunding pages. To learn more, read Money's guide on how to avoid scams like these.