Newspaper Renewal Scam Targets Consumers

October 9th, 2014

fraudulent renewal notice

Extra! Extra! Read all about it! That notice you received in the mail to renew your Wall Street Journal or New York Times subscription may be a scam. Fraudulent renewal and new order notices are materializing in mailboxes across the country.

In a full page notice in the New York Times Saturday, the paper said some subscribers to the Times and other publications have received unauthorized renewal notices that were sent without the paper’s approval. The companies sending the fraudulent notices were operating under several names including Associated Publishers Network, Associated Publishers Services, Circulation Billing Services, Customer Access Services, Publishers Distribution Services and Readers Payment Service. The Times said it doesn’t send renewal notices to customers because subscriptions are automatically renewed. The Times said the notices don’t represent any type of security breach. It told customers: “All of our subscriber information, such as name and address, remains safe with us.”

The Star Tribune in Minneapolis, Minn. also reports that the perpetuators are operating under the names Associated Publishers Network and United Publishers Network, both of which have “F” ratings with the BBB. The paper says the notices have been mailed to subscribers of its own publication, the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, and others.

Unauthorized notices have also recently cropped up in Denver, San Antonio, San DiegoSt. Louis, and Austin. The Star Tribune says the rates on these bogus billings are “significantly higher” than what most of the newspapers and magazines actually charge. For instance, one notice requested a woman pay $500 for a one-year subscription to the Star Tribune, though the paper offers it for about $160.

The BBB has received nearly 300 complaints against Associated Publishers Network and nearly 900 complaints against United Publishers Network, which also goes by the moniker Publisher’s Payment Processing. The BBB has previously warned consumers about both companies. Regarding United Publishers Network, the organization wrote:

On November 1, 2012, BBB recognized a pattern of complaints from consumers regarding improper billing and collection practices. Consumers allege they receive bills from this company for magazines they currently have subscriptions for, implying it is time for renewal. However consumers claim the subscriptions are not expired, nor did they originally order through this company. Consumers further allege the company’s renewal advertisement states it has the lowest renewal fee, but consumers find that renewing directly through their magazine’s publisher costs less. Consumers also claim the company charges a $20 processing fee to cancel renewals.

The BBB says it has yet to hear back from the companies regarding the growing consumer complaints. In the meantime, we would recommend contacting publications directly if you receive a renewal or new order notice you think is shady.

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