Columbia, SC (WLTX) - South Carolina's price-gouging law is now in effect, as the state is on guard for anyone who may try to take advantage of the preparations for Hurricane Irma.

The price-gouging law only goes into effect when there's a state of emergency. Around noon Wednesday. South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster issued that order to get state agencies ready for a possible disaster.

Related Coverage: State of Emergency Declared in South Carolina

“With the possibility that Hurricane Irma could make landfall in South Carolina, our people have already started making preparations," said South Carolina Attorney Gen. Alan Wilson. "We can expect normal price increases, but we may see businesses and individuals looking to unfairly take advantage of the situation through price gouging of food, gasoline, lodging, and other commodities as defined by the statute. By our law, that’s a criminal violation and an unfair trade practice,” Wilson said.

FORECAST: Where Might Hurricane Irma Go

The price gouging law (SC §39-5-145) is a general prohibition of unconscionable prices during times of disaster. It is in effect for the next 15 days. Price gougers can be charged for excessive pricing, a misdemeanor offense punishable with a $1,000 fine and/or 30 days in jail.

If you feel like you are the victim of price gouging there are certain steps that you can take to help our office investigate. Please do the following:

1. Note the time, place, address, and name of the gas station
2. Note the price you paid
3. Note any prices nearby and get the same information on those stations
4. Take pictures that identify the station, along with the price
5. Provide your name and contact information

Our office will need that information in order to conduct a thorough investigation. Please email any examples or documentation to or call 803-737-3953 and leave a message if you have witnessed a likely violation.