Scam targets magazine subscriptions

August 28, 2008 7:31:47 PM PDT
If you get a bill in the mail, you probably pay it right away. But here is a warning about bills you may be getting in your mailbox.

We're getting lots of reports of a scam, and you may be a target too. But we found one woman who's been subscribing to the same magazine the past 56 years, and suddenly a rogue company comes along to take advantage.

Tasia Melvin loves everything theater. Her family business sells rhinestones and sequins to the opera, ballet and theater.

"My father started it in 1947," said Melvin. "We sell everything you can adorn a costume with."

Part of her passion? Dance Magazine. She's been subscribing since she was 14.

"In my heart of hearts, I would have loved to have been a dancer -- and pigs are going to fly," said Melvin.

So when Tasia got a notice of renewal, she paid the $64 for two more years. But months later, she got a second renewal notice and by mistake she paid again.

"After the second one I woke up and looked in my files and said I've already paid for this, now I've paid for it again," said Melvin.

So she called the billing company. Nobody answered the phone. So, she called 7 On Your Side.

We investigated and it turns out it is not a real billing company. It uses the name Publisher's Billing Agency and Publisher's Billing Association. Payments went to P.O. boxes in Capitola, Las Vegas and San Francisco.

Tasia said it sure looked like the real thing.

"Dance Magazine, 24 issues, two years, it looked pretty legitimate," said Melvin.

But it's not. This is what's known as rogue billing.

"You don't owe any money whatsoever and it's really just a scam trying to trick you into paying money you don't owe," said Joe Ridout from Consumer Action.

Ridout says rogue companies are skimming your subscription fees. .

"They falsely claim or insinuate that they're affiliated with Harpers or the New Yorker," said Ridout. "But actually they're cannibalizing the revenue stream of this magazine publisher because they take so much of the subscription price."

Dance Magazine told 7 On Your Side Publishers Billing Agency somehow obtained a subscriber list and sent out fake bills.

It took $18 of Tasia's payment, and paid $47 to the magazine. That kept her subscription going and avoided raising any red flags, and allowed them to keep operating.

Dance Magazine will refund Tasia for her duplicate payment but the U.S. Postal Service warns that these operators are out there.

So the lesson? Subscribe directly with your magazine and read any notices you get in the mail very carefully.


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