The following are some key numbers to keep handy in case you need government help with consumer problems:
* California Department of Consumer Affairs: (800) 952-5210. This can be a good source of information and referral when you can't find a solution elsewhere. The department licenses and regulates many services.
* California State Office of Information: (213) 897-9900 or (916) 322-9900. This office will help guide you through the maze of state offices. Just describe what you're looking for; you don't even have to have the name of an agency.
* For Orange County, call the district attorney's office, (714) 568-1200.
* California Department of Real Estate: (213) 897-3399. This is the place to take problems with agents and brokers. The agency serves all of Southern California.
* Federal Information Center: (800) 688-9889. An information specialist at this Maryland office will unravel the red tape of federal agencies. You will be told the function and location of the agency you need.
* Federal Trade Commission: (310) 235-4000. This agency protects the consumer when merchandise has crossed state lines. Investigations of infractions of the Fair Credit Reporting Act also originate here. If you're faced with telemarketing fraud or if you're a victim of deceptive advertising or marketing, you can call this office.
* Food and Drug Administration: (714) 798-7600. This Irvine number serves all of Southern California. When you find something unusual in a can of food or something wrong with a drug, bring your complaints here. It's a good idea to contact your doctor first if a food or drug has made you ill. This agency also handles complaints about cosmetics.
* Disabled American Veterans: (310) 477-2539. If you're having difficulties with red tape concerning the Veterans Administration, you can call upon the DAV even if you're not disabled or a member of this organization. This office also serves Ventura County. For Orange County, call (714) 547-1886. For Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties, call (619) 299-6916.
* Public Inquiry Unit of the California Attorney General: (800) 952-5225. You also can write a short letter--and be sure to include your address and phone number--to the Public Inquiry Unit, office of the attorney general, 1515 K St., Sacramento, CA 95814.
* Social Security Information: (800) 772-1213. A phone call could save you a trip to your local office. This line often is quite busy, so you can call the Federal Information Center, (800) 688-9889, for an office to call in your area.
Source: Los Angeles Department of Consumer Affairs
How to deal with an armed robber:
If confronted by an armed robber be careful and cooperate, police advise. Here are some tips:
* Try to remain calm and be as alert and observant as possible.
* Do not try to be a hero. Take no action that would jeopardize your own or someone else's safety.
* Follow the robber's directions, but do not volunteer more than he asks for.
* Do not make any overt moves. If you must put your hands into your pockets for a key to the cash register or take any action that the robber might misinterpret, explain such action before doing it.
* If the robber hands you a note, place it out of sight and retain as evidence.
* Be attentive and make as many mental notes as possible that may be of help in identifying and tracking the robber.
Source: Ventura Police Department