Fake Newspaper Subscription Renewals Pepper the U.S.

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Newspaper subscribers from coast to coast are being targeted in a scam that aims to con them into paying phony renewal notices at far higher rates than newspapers are charging, numerous newspapers and the Better Business Bureau are warning. And since the payments aren't going to the papers, subscriptions are not being extended.

Newspapers in Arizona, Minnesota, Ohio, Kansas, New York, California, Texas, Washington and other states have published notices to their subscribers about the phony invoices. The Arizona Republic in Phoenix, for example, reported that more than 70 readers had contacted the paper after paying the fake invoices.

"It is such a scam," Carole Schneider of Scottsdale told the newspaper. "A lot of people won't look closely, and I think they will get scammed."

High Rates, All to the Scammer

The fake subscription renewal notices typically come by mail and ask for payment to cover a full year of newspaper delivery. The rates are always higher than the real ones. In Phoenix they were 20 percent over the actual price. Fake Denver Post subscriptions were four times the going rate, the BBB said.

The Better Business Bureau said the subscriptions are coming from a host of different companies with such names as Publishers Billing Exchange, Readers Payment Service, Associated Publishers Network and Platinum Subscription Services. The BBB has consolidated consumer complaints under Publisher's Payment Processing, which lists a Medford, Oregon, address. As of Monday, the BBB listed nearly 900 complaints nationwide.

Based on the number of newspapers whose subscribers have been targeted and the number of complaints filed, the number of victims is likely in the thousands.

The BBB noted that some notices have spelling errors and are typically asking for payment to be sent far away from the actual location of the newspaper. Rather than pay a questionable renewal notice, consumers should contact the newspaper at the circulation number listed in the newspaper to check whether they are legitimate. Do not call any number listed on the notices themselves.

If you have been victimized in this scam, you should file a complaint with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Federal Trade Commission.
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