Fake magazine renewal notice

As a household, we subscribe to a few magazines. Hence we get renewal notices for those magazines regularly, and, the magazine subscription industry being what it is, we usually get two or three renewal notices per magazine subscription. On average maybe a couple per month. All well and good, no problem.

In today’s mail I got this renewal notice for The Economist:

Scam Renewal Notice Page 1

The only issue is I do not actually subscribe to The Economist. I did, a few years ago, and liked it, but I never really found time to read it (it’s a weekly publication after all, with many in-depth articles that reward intelligent reading). Oh, for the days of commuting by Tube to/from the City of London…

Anyway, back to the notice. Because I no longer get The Economist, my guard was up already. Also, it wasn’t from them  and didn’t have their branding. Just some outfit called “Associated Publishers Services”, whose website was publisherspayment.com, and who wanted checks writing to “ASPS” (which is not an initialism of their name). The overpowering smell of week-old cod filled the room. Yep, it was certainly fishy.

And there at the bottom of the page in ye olde 8pt font (cf. the 16pt font of “NOTICE OF RENEWAL/NEW ORDER”) we have “RENEWAL OFFER - NOT A BILL”. On the back, in the middle of a bunch of dense text is, “This is a magazine subscription offer, not a bill or invoice.”

Yes, it’s a, er, “renewal offer” (with the legal get-out-of-jail-free phrase at the bottom and sentence on the back) that is designed to look exactly like a renewal notice. In the hopes – obviously – that the person receiving it thinks it’s legit and just pays up to ensure their continued subscription. Nice. Reminds me of these guys.

For fun, I went to The Economist’s site and looked up how much subscribing to 51 issues would be direct from the publisher. Ready? $126.99, for both the print publication and digital delivery. This Renewal Notice Offer is for $179.95! In two installments of $89.98, if you so wish! And no mention of digital delivery! A friggin’ bargain at only $53 more than the official site; or, if you like, a markup of a mere 42%. Are you ready to pay an extra fifty bucks (a dollar per issue) to have these people as “independent agents” (that’s the phrase they use on the back) between you and the magazine? No, I thought not.

Scam Renewal Notice Page 2

Let’s just check the text on the notice offer: “By acting now, you can lock in at one of our lowest rates”, “You’re receiving one of the lowest available rates we can offer for your regular subscription” (emphasis mine). Nice evasions there, I must say. On the back is more goodness: you only have seven days to cancel should you have been foolish enough to send them any money, and, “it will be subject to a $20 cancellation fee”. Ooh, super nice.

In my opinion, then, pretty much a scam. Sorry if you got caught by it, but, if not, please watch out for these nasty little notices offers in your mail.

Album cover for The Royal ScamNow playing:
Steely Dan - Don't Take Me Alive
(from The Royal Scam)

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20 Responses

#1 Mark said...
29-Apr-12 4:37 PM

Hi, I just received the same sort of notice from the same outfit. It was for Horticulture magazine. They list a low rate of $59.95. If I go to amazon.com I can get a rate of $20.00. These people are total scam artists.

Thanks for your post.

#2 Roger Wellington-Oguri said...
30-Apr-12 3:52 PM

Same form, same website, but for mine they used the name Subscription Billing Service. They offered me a Scientific American renewal for $69.95, which is only three and a half times the publisher's price. I'd say buy now, before prices go through the roof!

julian m bucknall avatar
#3 julian m bucknall said...
30-Apr-12 4:34 PM

Roger: Maybe they've indexed their prices to the price of gas! ;)

Cheers, Julian

#4 NORMA GODFREY said...
12-Sep-12 9:07 PM

i got this exact type by mail for KIplinger magazine

i am glad I read this review.

#5 Mark K said...
30-Oct-12 10:56 AM

I have also received the fake Economist renewal offer/notice. I am a current subscriber to the Economist.

I assume all of you have or had a subscription to the magazine being offered. So the question is: who sold that information to Associated Publishing Services? In my case it has to be either the publisher or the credit card company (the latter knows I purchased SOMETHING from the Economist - even if they can't guaranetee it was a subscription).

I'm more inclined to suspect my credit card company - since co-marketing and providing my information to "affiliates" seems to occupy a lot of the helpful mails they send to assure me of their concern for my privacy.

#6 Debra said...
31-Oct-12 1:43 PM

Just got one of these renewals for ScienceNews. Offered "lowest rate" for $72.50. I just paid my subscription to NS $49.95.


#7 George M said...
11-Dec-12 7:56 AM

It's not just the magazine services, it's the publishers themselves. Example - We received a renewal notice for Veranda Magazine from the Hearst Magazines group, $28.00 for one-year. Their web site, $15.00 for one-year and $25.00 for two-years. The notice states "Subject to Expiration: 1/15/2013". Well, that's when this "special offer" expires, not our subscription. The subscription actually expires in 2014.

#8 BriBri said...
22-Dec-12 1:11 PM

Got one of these for "Science News." I never had a subscription to that magazine before. I suspect they were trying to trick me into thinking it was my Scientific American subscription, however the price threw me for a loop. I had a feeling it was a scam, but wanted to make sure. Thanks for pointing this out.

#9 K harris said...
09-Jan-13 2:39 PM

Received the same scam

#10 Nite said...
29-Jan-13 10:18 AM

So - does anyone have any solution (or at least a suggestion) to stopping this? I have a stack of about 30 of these. I'd like to punish them, or at least stop the flood...

julian m bucknall avatar
#11 julian m bucknall said...
29-Jan-13 10:51 AM

Nite: I'd have to say, unfortunately not. Although you could try and argue that the format of the notice is designed to deceive, in reality they've covered their ass by having the correct disclaimers throughout. Caveat emptor in other words.

Cheers, Julian

#12 Eric Boonstra said...
22-Feb-13 5:37 PM

Over the past year or two, these types of magazine "renewal" offers have arrived at my mailbox. It started with Scientific American, for about 4 times the normal subscription price. Today the mail delivered another renewal offer for Daily Word, for $49.95 for 6 issues; the normal yearly subscription rate? $14.95. How can this be legal? Caveat emptor?

#13 Don Essig said...
27-Apr-13 7:55 PM

Why are these scumbags still operating? This is obvious fraud, mail fraud at that, and they should be put out of business and jailed immediately.

#14 jim hardy said...
11-May-13 1:58 PM

just got same one, mailed it to Oregon state attorney's office with a link to this site.

#15 Gary Jermyn said...
02-Jul-13 12:45 PM

I just received a notice from this scammer to renew my Barron's Magazine subscription at "the lowest available rates WE can offer". It turns out that this rate is 3 times the rate of dealing with Barron's direct. Don't deal with this outfit.

#16 Tom Prebis said...
23-Jul-13 8:54 AM

I have contacted the Ohio Attny General about this scumbag "company" as well, Jim...

#17 Gary Rathbun said...
01-Mar-14 11:31 AM

Unfortunately, I wasn't paying attention and payed out $44.98 for 1/2 yearly renewal for Science News. Renewal for Science News is $28.00/year. Had I fallen for the entire scam, I would have been out $89.96.&1 Now here is what's interesting: I called several magazines to tell them of this scam. They were all aware of it, and were trying to 'track' down SBS.&1

#18 Art Kosatka said...
18-Jul-14 1:18 PM

Same thing received here -- for the Economist, never a subscriber, so how did I get on their list... Thanks for the idea to send to State regulators... what about Federal Trade Commission -- using the US mail, so I suspect it should be mail fraud, too

#19 hugh dillon said...
15-Nov-14 7:37 AM

was 29 now 59 i owe and called to canncel and i am 88 yrs. old

#20 Connie said...
20-Nov-14 7:58 AM

On the renewal form, they claim that you are receiving one of the lowest rates, yet the REAL subscription is about $20 cheaper. Ridiculous.

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