As people in the path of Hurricane Matthew rush to fill their gas tank and stock up on water, some hotels, stores, and gas stations are doubling their prices and gouging vulnerable residents.
On October 3, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi activated the state's price-gouging hotline after Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency — which prohibits “increases in the price of essential commodities, including food, ice, gas, hotels, lumber and water,” Bondi told TODAY correspondent Jeff Rossen.
Since Monday, more than 2,000 residents have filed complaints with the hotline, criticizing the rise in price of essentials from fuel and food to generators, hotel rooms and building materials, reported Bondi's office, which told NBC News it has already launched an investigation.
Information released to NBC News Friday by Bondi's office identified the four most frequent price gougers — and consumers have already taken to social media to publicly humiliate these businesses.
From Wal-Mart to Chevron, consumer complaints on Twitter and Instagram have noted that gas stations have hiked prices to between $5.99 and $9.99 a gallon.
Hotels and motels including Holiday Inn, Hampton Inn and Hilton have been identified as price gougers, with the Today Show reporting how one Days Inn hiked its nightly rate to $199 per night from its original rate of $62. NBC News called Hampton Inn, Rockledge and found the rate on Saturday, Oct 8. was $159 but dropped down to $119 the week following that.
One Twitter user found other hotels affected by Hurricane Matthew trying to use the hurricane to increase prices.
Supermarkets have been cashing in on bottles of water, charging from $11.99 for a six-pack of Fiji to $30.96 for a 24-bottle count of Circle X. Consumers told Bondi's office that Wal-Mart, Walgreens, Circle K, Bravo Supermarkets and CVS have raised their prices tremendously for water, food and ice, especially in Dade, Okeechobee, Orange, Palm Beach, Seminole and Brevard counties.
Facebook users didn't shy away from shaming some airlines for hiking their prices: Jess Kump posted that the rate for both Delta and United jumped from $600 on Wednesday to $4,000 on Friday for a round trip from Jacksonville, Florida to Cleveland, Ohio.
The Attorney General's office is working with GoFundMe, a popular crowd-sourced donation platform, to ensure money meant for victims of Hurricane Matthew is not "going to scammers." Donors are encouraged to contact Bondi's office to verify the authenticity of the charity prior to donating, she said.