(WTTV/WXIN) — The Federal Trade Commission is warning US veterans and their loved ones about attempts to swindle them by offering help in applying for newly available benefits.

Recent TV commercials about toxic materials at Camp Lejeune, burn pits and Agent Orange have stirred up a lot of bad actors who are seeing new opportunities to line their own pockets.

When Congress passed the PACT Act, VA healthcare benefits were expanded for veterans who experienced health problems as a result of exposure to such materials. Scammers know a lot of veterans will have questions about how to apply for the benefits. 

According to the FTC, the crooks are on the hunt, contacting veterans and offering to help file a claim. However, if you accept the help, they will charge you a fee or a percentage of the benefits you receive.  

And that’s how you know you’re dealing with a crook. You don’t have to pay anything to apply for any kind of veterans benefits. And there’s plenty of free help out there.

The Department of Veterans Affairs offers three kinds of accredited representatives that can help you apply for the benefits you deserve: Veteran Service Organization (VSO) representatives, attorneys and agents.

The VA has an accreditation search tool on its website to help you find assistance and confirm their credentials. You can also file your own claim online or in person at your nearest VA office.

If you are contacted by someone who wants to charge you a fee for this kind of help, the FTC hopes you will report them. You can do that on the agency’s website.