Special Report: "Cramming" scam could put charges on your credit card

(NBC NEWS) --  Walt Marciniak bought the Ped Egg, a device for home pedicures, as a gift for his wife.

Several weeks later out of the blue, Marciniak says he received a check.

"I thought it was either a rebate or a customer loyalty check, something along those lines. It was $8 so I didn't worry about it too much. Just bundled it off and cashed it," he says.

But that simple act of cashing a small check turned Marciniak into a crammed consumer.

"Then about a month ago I was looking at my credit card statements and I saw a charge for $139.99 for something called Buyers Advantage. I didn't recognize it," says Marciniak.

Now Walt Marciniak still isn't sure how cashing the rebate check resulted in his getting crammed.

But over at the Federal Trade Commission Michael Tankersley says the disclosure should be the marketers problem, not the consumers.

"What the commission says is that the terms and conditions of any sale that you're making to a consumer have to be disclosed upfront and any terms or conditions that are crucial to the deal have to be disclosed clearly and conspicuously," he says.

Where was the disclosure that told Marciniak he was joining a buyers club?

On the check in that tiny print under the $8 and on the back, tiny print again, where you sign.

"No, I did not see the fine print. Like I said, I just thought it was a standard rebate check."

"This $96 was the charge that was just dropped on my credit card. This was done on the anniversary of the order. $179.95. They bumped it up again," he says.

So what do you do if you find yourself a victim of cramming?

First, if you find an unrecognized charge that includes a phone number call to find out what the charge is for.

Ask the company to refund your money and cancel all future charges.

Also, ask your credit or debit card company to cancel the charge.

And contact the FTC which tracks cramming incidents and prosecutes offenders.

"Companies have an obligation to come back and explain to you how is is that charge got on there and if it's not an authorized charge to remove it," says Tankersley.

Walt Marciniak's cramming charge was dropped, but he says he learned a valuable lesson.

"You have to be so careful of you put your name on something to read everything or just throw it away. Forget the check or read it. Don't do what I did," he warns.

If your credit card has been crammed, you can find help at 1-877-FTC-HELP. Or you can go to the FTC website at FTC.GOV