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Scam Alert - Magazine renewal

If you don't already know, be very careful of magazine renewal notices. I've written about domain slammers, but the same predatory practices exist in the more mundane world of magazine subscriptions. For example, I got a "Notice of Renewal/New Order" from Publishers Billing Exchange, Inc. in the mail today.

As it happens, I was aware of Carstens Publications (publishers of Railroad Model Craftsman, among others) issuing a warning about this and other companies, and since my subscription is nowhere near expiring, it was pretty clear that this organization is so out of touch, it couldn't possibly be affiliated with Carstens.

Looking around, other sites, such as Trains.com and an NMRA bulletin also raise the hue and cry about doing business with this seemingly dubious outfit.

Further poking around on the internet revealed that the Los Angeles Better Business Bureau gives this company, ostensibly run by a Richard Schork, a rating of "F" and goes on to say:

Our opinion of what this rating means: We strongly question the company’s reliability for reasons such as that they have failed to respond to complaints, their advertising is grossly misleading, they are not in compliance with the law’s licensing or registration requirements, their complaints contain especially serious allegations, or the company’s industry is known for its fraudulent business practices.

It continues with:

Complainants allege deceptive or misleading advertising, and failure to send magazines as agreed. Customers complain they receive subscription renewal notices for various magazines the company claims to represent. Customers complain in some cases they pay the invoice amount, but fail to receive their monthly magazine delivery. In other cases consumers report they do not hold any magazine subscription, and that the renewal is actually a solicitation for a new service. Several complainants report after contacting the publisher after not receiving their subscription, they learn that PBE is not authorized to bill customers, send renewal notices, or collect any money on their behalf. The company responds to some complaints by agreeing to cancel the subscription and issue a refund or credit. In other cases the company claims the customer may have confused them with another company, or, they contend that their mailed "Renewal/Solicitation" notice is designed to be used for solicitation or renewal purposes depending on the situation, and contend that the notice displays required disclosures.

The California Secretary of State indicates that (as of late November 2009) Publishers Billing Exchange, Inc. is suspended... but other research indicates that Mr. Schork has run previous similar businesses under different names.

By the way, reading the language of the notice carefully, you should pick up on subtle double-speak such as "... Fortunately, by acting now, you can lock in at one of our lowest rates." (emphasis mine.) Not the lowest rates, but our lowest rates. Publishers Billing Exchange isn't pretending to offer you any discount, but they do seem to be saying that the price they're quoting you is the lowest they're going to offer you, never mind that going straight to the publisher of the magazine, you're likely to get a much better deal. And never mind that many complaints out there indicate that PBE, Inc. allegedly just pocketed the money and never actually fulfilled the subscription. Caveat Emptor.

Anyway, my subscription's actual renewal is a long way off, and besides, I have no intention of renewing through this or any other "third party" organization. If you've examined the facts, I'm guessing you'd come to the same conclusion.

Sections: 1

Another Scamster
 — Thomas M. Tuerke

Got another one of these bogus offers for renewal. Same misleading text. Same rediculous price. But from a different organization, Magazine Distribution Service, this time run out of Reno, Nevada.

The BBB of Reno gives them an F with (as of this writing) 69 complaints lodged against them. Oh, and the Google maps shows this to be a strip mall... with a UPS store... Need I say more?

Well, I will point out that the BBB site does offer a link to the US BBB article on magazine subscription solicitations.