Dear Readers:

This letter may not be the most interesting you've ever read in this space, but it could be one of the most important. Please pay attention.

Dear Ann Landers:

The Federal Trade Commission and the nation's attorneys general need your help in warning consumers about unscrupulous telemarketers who pitch expensive "protection" against credit card loss.

We recently sued a number of scammers who were telling consumers, often senior citizens, that thieves can get their account information from the Internet and ring up thousands of dollars in unauthorized purchases. The scammers have also been telling older people that the Y2K glitch might cause unauthorized charges to be placed on their accounts. They are offering "insurance" against such losses.

Here is the message we want to get across to your readers: If you get one of these calls, don't fall for the pitch--and don't buy the loss-protection insurance. If you didn't authorize a charge, don't pay it. Follow the procedures of your credit card issuers for disputing charges that you have not authorized. According to federal law, your liability for unauthorized charges is limited to $50.

For more information about your credit rights, tell your readers to call the FTC toll-free at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) or visit our Web sites at www.ftc.gov or www.naag.org. They can also call their state attorney general.

-- Jodie Bernstein, Director, Bureau of Consumer Protection, Federal Trade Commission, Washington, D.C., and Drew Edmondson, Attorney General, State of Oklahoma

Dear Ann Landers:

Like millions of others, I have grown up reading your column, but I never thought I would need to write to you. Today's incident, however, has changed all that.

As I sat in the doctor's waiting room, in walked a woman who smiled pleasantly and took a seat next to me. Within a minute, I thought I'd pass out. She had on enough perfume to asphyxiate an army.

First, I should tell you I'm a smoker, but I do try to be respectful of others. I obey all no-smoking signs and never light up in a no-smoking area, nor do I smoke in a group without asking permission. My complaint is about women who douse themselves in perfume. After being around them, I get choked up to the point where I CANNOT breathe, and I lose my voice. This is exactly what happened to me in the doctor's waiting room.

I know I can't be the only person in the world with this problem, so please, Ann, print my letter in your column. It would be a tremendous service to millions of readers.

--D.P., Somewhere in Texas

Here's your letter, and for whatever comfort it may be, you have a lot of company. I have received hundreds of letters from both men and women who cannot tolerate perfume, cologne or men's after-shave lotion. Some have written, "My throat closes up." Others have said, "I break out in hives."

I hope your letter will alert millions of readers to the fact that a dab of perfume behind the ears is fine, but please, don't drown in it.

Dear Ann Landers:

I've learned a lot from your column. The most valuable bit of advice was the counsel given by my grandmother when I married. It was this:

"Don't look for perfection in your mate. You will not find it. And it's just as well. Living with a saint can be tiresome. Learn the wisdom of compromise. It is better to bend a little than to break."

--Norfolk, Va., Reader

Words of wisdom not only for newlyweds, but for all of us. Remember them.

Questions may be sent to: Ann Landers, c/o Creators Syndicate, 5777 W. Century Blvd., Suite 700, Los Angeles, Calif. 90045.

(c)1999, Creators Syndicate