COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- The number of Coloradans losing money to greedy scammers charging more than a fair price for essential household products is on the rise.
A KRDO investigation found there are few laws to protect Coloradans from price gouging.
The Colorado Attorney General's Office is investigating about 400 price gouging complaints during the pandemic.
"When you have a time that people are afraid, and this is happening during this pandemic, you end up having a lot of scammers coming out to prey on people's fears," AG Phil Weiser said.
Often, scammers take advantage of those fears by unfairly raising the prices of hard to find items. Some of the complaints in Colorado related to COVID-19 are price gouging of hand sanitizer, other in-demand household products and even ventilators.
But there aren't specific price gouging laws to address the growing number of complaints. Price gouging isn't illegal in the state of Colorado. Thirty-six states have price gouging laws to prevent scammers during a disaster or emergency, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
While Colorado isn't on that list, the AG said there is a mechanism in the current consumer laws that allows his office to address price gouging cases as a civil offense.
"Last spring, the Colorado Legislature changed our consumer protection law to ban, in a catch-all way, unfair and unconscionable trade practices," Weiser said.
An individual who is guilty of price gouging would not receive jail time under the current law. Weiser said price gouging is a civil offense, which means the punishment would be a monetary fine.
As the Attorney General's office investigates hundreds of claims, Weiser welcomes lawmakers to clarify the law to include price gouging specifically.
In the meantime, he recommends victims visit StopFraudColorado.gov to report fraud of scams.