Legal assistance officials are warning folks in the military community to check their credit card charges carefully each month in the wake of a new credit card scam.
At this point, it's unclear whether any military customers have been affected, but it's better to be safe than sorry.
The swindlers are posting unauthorized credit card charges to customers' credit card bills after they hijacked the name of a legitimate company, a contractor with the Army & Air Force Exchange Service.
There is a billing code associated with the fraudulent charges that has been identified as "Riley AAFES," meaning the Fort Riley, Kan., AAFES operation. It is not known whether any of the money has flowed from or to the Fort Riley exchange.
AAFES can't discuss specifics because an investigation is underway, said exchange service spokesman Judd Anstey, who added that AAFES is unaware of any complaints from customers about the issue so far.
Anyone who has information about, or has been a victim of, this scam, should contact the Federal Trade Commission's toll-free help line at 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357). Complaints also can be registered at http://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/military_home.htm">the FTC's Military Sentinel Web site
FTC officials declined to comment on whether an investigation is ongoing. Betsy Broder, FTC criminal liaison chief, said the agency is currently litigating other cases involving so-called "cramming" of credit card charges.
Crooks can fool credit card companies into thinking they are legitimate businesses to get merchant accounts that enable them to charge customers' credit cards.
Tips from the FTC for protecting yourself:
• Pay attention to charges, regardless of whether you do business with the billing company. Federal law limits your responsibility for unauthorized charges to $50.
• If you believe a charge is incorrect, write to the creditor (i.e., credit card company) at the address given for "billing inquiries." Include your name, address, account number and a description of the billing error.
• Send the letter in time to reach the creditor within 60 days after the first bill with the error. Send it by certified mail, return receipt requested, so that you have proof that the creditor received it.
• Keep a copy of your dispute letter.
Questions? Comments? E-mail staff writer email@example.com?subject=Question from ArmyTimes.com reader">Karen Jowers at firstname.lastname@example.org?subject=Consumer%20Watch:%20Check%20credit%20card%20bills%20for%20cramming">email@example.com.