Charles was surprised by the official-looking subscription-renewal form for the Atlantic magazine. At $75, it seemed a whole lot pricier than the last time he renewed.

Looking more closely, he saw that the form wasn't from the Atlantic but was instead from something called Associated Publishers Network.

ASK LAZ: Smart answers to consumer questions

He wants to know: Are these guys legit?

The answer, in a word, is no.

According to the Better Business Bureau, Associated Publishers Network operates under a variety of aliases, including United Publishers Clearing House, National Magazine Services, Orbital Publishing and Publisher's Billing Exchange.

No matter how they're presenting themselves, the racket is always the same: What looks like a legitimate renewal form is actually an attempt to get you to subscribe at a wildly inflated price.

Don't fall for it. First, if you see a Nevada return address, it's likely these guys.

Second, if you really want to subscribe, just go to the magazine's website, where you'll certainly receive a more reasonable offer.

If you have a consumer question, email me at asklaz@latimes.com or contact me via Twitter @Davidlaz.