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Attorney General Lockyer Cautions Against Price Gouging by Gasoline Stations and Scam Artists Preying on Caring Californians in Wake of Attack on World Trade Center, Pentagon

Wednesday, September 12, 2001
Contact: (415) 703-5837

(SACRAMENTO) – Attorney General Bill Lockyer today reminded Californians to be on the alert for scam artists who might prey on their compassion and charity in the wake of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

"While we all want to do what we can to help, there is the unfortunate reality that scam artists may be standing by to profit from this national disaster," Lockyer said. "Consumers should review charity solicitations closely to be sure that your donations will really get to victims and help in the heroic rescue efforts."

The Attorney General also cautioned California oil companies and gasoline retailers against exploiting the nation's tragedy by taking unconscionable advantage of consumers. In several states such as Illinois, Ohio, Oklahoma and Kansas, gasoline prices spiked to as high as $5 per gallon on Tuesday.

"Preliminary reports suggest California oil companies and gasoline stations are acting responsibly," Lockyer said. "Prices today appear to be the same as they were before the terrorist attack on the East Coast. Should this situation change, we will investigate and take action for illegal profiteering. Consumers who encounter price gouging and profiteering from the disaster should report the matter to the Attorney General's Office."

Californians can report complaints to the Attorney General's Public Inquiry Unit by calling 1-800-952-5225 or (916) 322-3360, or writing at P.O. Box 944255, Sacramento, CA 94244-2550. Or consumers can use the complaint form available on the Attorney General's website at http://caag.state.ca.us.

For charity solicitations, the Attorney General urged Californians to consider the following tips before donating to disaster appeals:

*Review the various disaster relief appeals, rather than responding to the first charity from which you hear.

*Check to see that the charity is registered in California with the Attorney General's Registry of Charitable Trust. A searchable data base is available on the Attorney General's web site at http://justice.doj.ca.gov/charity/charity.taf

*Be wary of appeals that are long on emotion but short on what the charity will do to address the specific disaster.

*Ask how much of your gift would be used for the disaster mentioned in the appeal, and how much would go towards administrative and fund-raising costs.

*Find out what the charity intends to do with any excess contributions remaining after the needs of victims of the disaster are addressed.

*While there may be a sense of urgency, remember there will be opportunities to give in the future. The problems caused by disasters generally remain long after the headlines in the news disappear.

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