Magazine Scams

Beware of magazine scams preying on unsuspecting consumers using high-pressure sales tactics and phony claims. These types of scams vary in nature but generally take on the following forms.

  • Phony Invoices Sent Through the Mail
    Third-party companies will send magazine subscription offers to consumers that look like renewal notices or invoices. These companies assume business names that include words like “publishers,” “billing,” or “service,” and purposely design their mailings to look like they are coming from the magazine company. However, if you look at the fine print, the mailings are actually solicitations that are double or triple the cost offered by the real magazine company.
  • Door-to-Door Sales
    People with particularly compelling stories will come to your door selling magazine subscriptions for a good cause, such as earning a prize, saving money for college, going to camp, or even a non-profit organization like a hospital. The subscription’s cost is exorbitantly high and often times the consumer will not get what they paid for. The people selling the magazines may also get scammed with false promises of easy sales and high payouts.
  • Telemarketing Calls
    Telemarketers will call and use deceptive and high-pressure sales tactics to trick people into paying for expensive multi-year magazine packages. They will pretend to represent the magazine company and make false statements that you have won a big prize (such as a $1,000 gift card or luxury watch), did not receive your “bonus” magazines, or that you are entitled to a lower payment or credit. To receive the prize, bonus, or credit, you just have to confirm or provide your personal and financial information and participate in a tape-recorded “verification” of the order. But the unscrupulous telemarketers will doctor the tape or disclose different terms on the recording. When you don’t receive what you had been promised, they will rely on these doctored tapes to hold you to the payments.

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What to Do

If you’re approached by these magazine salespersons, here’s what you may want to do to avoid being ripped off:

  • Do Not Purchase Any Magazines. Be very wary of providing any solicitors with your personal or financial information. Many of these companies refuse to cancel people’s packages, which may lead to credit card disputes, possible debt collection actions, and incidents of identity theft. The companies may also sell or trade your information to other companies, which could lead to more high-pressure calls from telemarketers.
  • Read the Fine Print. Review the entire “renewal” notice carefully, including the fine print and the name of the sender to determine whether it was indeed sent by the magazine company. Often times these notices identify, in fine, hard-to-read print, the name of the third-party company and the fact that the notice is a solicitation. Also, if you do decide to purchase magazines, make sure to ask for the terms of the agreement and read them. Sales persons, whether on the phone or in person, can often misrepresent the cost of the subscription and cancellation terms.
  • Contact the Publisher Directly. When you receive a “renewal” invoice, contact the publisher directly to determine whether the notice is genuine. Confirm the cost to renew a subscription. Do not trust the phone number listed on the notice, but rather look up the telephone number on the publisher’s website or on the magazine itself.
  • Find Out When Your Magazine Subscription Ends. To avoid renewing your subscription earlier than you want or need to, check your receipts to find out when your magazine subscription ends. You may also be able to find this information on the mailing label of the magazine. It may be listed in a non-descript “MMYY” format as seen below.
  • magazine subscription label

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What To Do If You’re a Victim

If you believe you have been the subject of a magazine scam, or would like to report a suspicious “renewal” or solicitation offer, you may file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Public Inquiry Unit, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Better Business Bureau.

For more information on magazine scams, see the following links: