Consumer Alert: California Newspaper Subscription Scam

Friday, October 31, 2014
Contact: (415) 703-5837, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SAN FRANCISCO – Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today issued a consumer alert to Californians regarding a recent scam involving fake newspaper subscription mailings. Individuals throughout California have recently received deceptive mailings that claim to be bills, invoices or renewal notices for newspaper subscriptions. The mailings may appear to be legitimate renewal notices from a local newspaper, but they are most likely a scam and should be ignored and reported. Seniors should be especially wary, as they are frequently targeted by scams of this nature.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR:

The deceptive notices may contain the following information:

  • The words “Notice of Renewal,” or “New Order”;
  • A company name that has words such as “Publishers,” “Billing,” “Services,” “Payment,” or “Circulation” in its name;
  • A official-looking “Control Number”;
  • Statements encouraging consumers to lock in their “low rates”;
  • Small print on the back of the invoices stating that they come from someone other than the publisher;
  • A self-addressed, postage unpaid envelope bearing a Post Office box or other mailing address that is located in a different state than the publisher;
  • The notices offer renewals and new subscriptions at highly inflated prices —in some cases nearly twice the actual renewal cost;
  • Subscribers have reported receiving these deceptive notices outside their regular billing periods, and sometimes after they have already renewed their subscriptions.

WHAT TO DO:

  • If you receive a suspicious subscription notice, do not pay it.  Consider canceling the order if you believe you may have already paid a suspicious renewal notice.
  • If you have a question about whether your subscription is expiring or needs to be renewed you should contact your newspaper publisher directly. Contact information is generally available in your newspaper, and on the newspaper’s official web site. 
  • Consumers who receive a deceptive renewal notice should file a complaint with their newspaper.  They can also file a complaint with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at http://ehome.uspis.gov/fcsexternal/default.aspx and with the Federal Trade Commission at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/.
  • California consumers can also file a complaint with the California Attorney General’s Office at: https://oag.ca.gov/contact/consumer-complaint-against-business-or-company.  Be sure to attach a copy of the deceptive notice to your complaint.
# # #