More than 500 possible cases of price gouging of gasoline and other essentials, including a $10 box of matches and a $7 loaf of bread, have been reported in New York before and after Hurricane Sandy. Reports are being investigated in New York City, the Hudson Valley and on Long Island by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. More than 300 reports were made over the weekend and yesterday, and that total is rising.

Schneiderman said he’s investigating an increasing number of reports of spikes in prices for essential goods, including gasoline, food, bottled water, generators, batteries and flashlights. The probe can include sharp, unwarranted increases in the cost of prices by retailers including supermarkets, hardware stores, bodegas, delis, hotels and taxis, he said.

Vendors may defend higher prices if they can show an increased cost of obtaining goods from wholesalers or in delivering services, making prosecutions difficult. State business law prohibits an “unconscionably excessive price” during an “abnormal disruption of the market” that unfairly takes advantage of consumers, Schneiderman said. New Yorkers can report price gouging by calling 800-771-7755 or via No arrests were reported as of yesterday.