The current war in Iraq has caused an outpouring of generosity and concern by Americans for troops and their families, and for humanitarian causes. Unfortunately, at times like these, war scams feed off the good intentions of decent people, diverting aid meant for soldiers and refugees. Barely a week into the conflict, we have heard isolated reports of bogus charities. In one case a Web-based company selling products with a patriotic theme claimed to be giving a share of profits to the Red Cross. The company has since withdrawn its claim, in the face of sharp denials by this well known international aid organization. Remember, it is not enough that you recognize the name of the charity you are giving to: be alert to scams that use the name of a real relief organization or (a common ploy) use a name that sounds very similar to that of a real charity.|
Other war scams to be on the lookout for include price-gouging, the raising of prices above real market level in times of emergency, to capitalize on increased need or anxiety. During this current war in the Middle East, we are watching gasoline prices closely, to ensure that increases are really driven by market events, and not just by fears about our nation's oil supplies. Report specific instances of possible price-gouging by filling out our online consumer complaint form.
ABOUT CONSUMER ALERTS - The Office of the Attorney General accepts consumer complaints about businesses. When a pattern of complaints warrants intervention, the Attorney General can file a civil lawsuit under consumer protection statutes, sometimes with the result that a company is required to pay restitution to consumers -- see our Major Lawsuits page. However, when a consumer is swindled by a con artist, filing a complaint cannot help. Civil litigation can sometimes put a very unscrupulous business out of action, but often cannot produce restitution.
Individual con artists generally fall under the jurisdiction of a criminal prosecutor -- in Texas, this is the district or county attorney. But even when they are charged and convicted, these individuals usually have spent the money as fast as they have stolen it. A person who is the victim of fraud should report the incident to the police or sheriff. But by far the best thing is for consumers to be aware of fraud, so they are not swindled in the first place. For this reason, the Office of the Attorney General posts these Consumer Alerts about possible scams and schemes that come to our attention through citizen contacts to our office or other sources.