The other day this page mentioned the problems created by look-alike charities, organizations with names that can easily be confused with better known, more firmly established groups.

Well, it seems there also are private groups that go beyond aping the names of charities to almost copying those of government agencies. In fact, their letters look so much like a mailing from the federal government that even if the addressee suspects they aren't, they still are opened and read and, often, answered.Sen. John Heinz of Pennsylvania wants to crack down on them. Heinz has introduced a bill to give the Postal Service authority to require that all such letters carry a "clear and prominent disclaimer" on the envelope and the contents, stating that the material is not a government document and is not approved or endorsed by the government.

The lengths to which mass mailers, already subsidized by the public through favorable postage rates, have gone to attract business are great. Heinz told a Senate subcommittee recently that one, calling itself the "Federal Record Service Corporation," offers to obtain a Social Security number for newborns for $15 - when the federal government provides them free with little or no red tape.

Even if used in what otherwise would be a worthwhile cause, deceit is out of order. Heinz's bill deserves to become law.