Scammers use fake “renewal” notices for magazine subscriptions to bilk subscribers; others pose as the FTC: Internet ScamBusters™ #239
Before we get going, we wanted to thank everyone for all the
great info that subscribers have been contributing about
This is perhaps the fastest growing scam topic we’ve seen this
OK. It’s time for another Snippets issue. Today, we’ll cover
Avoiding fake renewal magazine subscriptions.
Spotting email scammers posing as the FTC.
As always, we also recommend you check out the most popular
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Let’s check out today’s Snippets…
Scammers Send Fake Renewal Notices for Magazine Subscriptions
Thanks to ScamBusters reader Bill for suggesting we write
about a widespread, but under-publicized, scam. In a recent
email, Bill wrote:
“I have recently noticed that I am receiving multiple renewal
letters on the magazines I subscribe to. They are all very
official looking, and all say ‘Your subscription is about to
expire’ or have some kind of special renewal offer.
“There are multiple ‘companies’ doing this under the guise of
publishing firms… If you don’t keep a record of which
[magazines] you have really renewed you can be bilked out of a
lot of money…”
According to ConsumerAffairs.com, a number of scammers are
sending magazine subscribers across the country VERY
realistic-looking subscription renewal notices — some of
which offer deep discounts for re-subscribing by a certain
The logos, typefaces, print quality and paper stock used to
create these phony renewal notices are so close to what the
actual publishers use that few (if any) consumers can tell the
real deal from the fakes.
But there’s often one obvious tip-off: Some scammers offer
ridiculously LOW renewal prices. One scammer requested just
$5.00 to renew a yearly magazine subscription that cost many
Not surprisingly, people who fall for this ruse don’t receive
renewed subscriptions and never see their money again.
Such scams operate under a variety of different company names,
which makes it hard for law enforcement agencies to catch the
culprits. According to ConsumerAffairs.com, “Sometimes the
scammers pretend to be from a collection agency, collecting
money on behalf of the magazine.”
Naturally, legitimate magazine publishers aren’t too happy
about having their money siphoned off to scammers and getting
unfairly blamed for the problem. Therefore, many recommend
that readers follow these tips to avoid getting ripped off:
If you don’t remember the renewal date of your magazine
subscription (how many of us do?), check the renewal date on
the mailing label of your magazine. Be VERY suspicious if you
receive a renewal notice when your subscription isn’t due to
expire for quite some time!
(Unfortunately though, many magazines and newsletters do try
to get you to renew early. So this isn’t a foolproof red flag.)
Many magazines include a renewal notice in the final issue
of your magazine, so you’ll know it’s genuine.
If you get a random renewal notice, compare the address on
the form to the subscription mailing address in your magazine.
The real mailing address is located on what’s known as the
“masthead” (usually on one of the first few pages), which also
lists the publication’s editors, reporters, etc. Don’t send
money to an address that doesn’t match the one inside your
(Unfortunately though, some magazines and newsletters use a
special PO box for their renewals. So again, this isn’t a
foolproof red flag. If in doubt, see the next tip…)
Contact the magazine publisher directly if you have any
doubts or questions.
As you can see, this is a reasonably easy scam to avoid, as
long as you’re aware of what the thieves are up to.
Fake Email from the FTC Contains Spyware
A recent article in ConsumerAffairs.com reports that people,
including corporate and banking executives, have become
targets of “bogus emails supposedly sent by the Federal Trade
Commission, but actually sent by third parties hoping to
install spyware on [the victims'] computers.”
The fake emails acknowledge a complaint supposedly filed by
the recipient, and include an attachment. Anyone opening this
attachment will unleash malicious spyware.
The phony email is personalized, containing your name and
(when appropriate) the name of your business. The message
reads “Attached you will find a copy of your complaint.
Please print a hard copy of the complaint for your records in
the upcoming investigation.”
DO NOT open the attachment: it contains the spyware.
The FTC is warning consumers who receive this email to do the
Don’t open the attachment.
Delete the email.
Empty the deleted items folder.
If you’re a regular ScamBusters reader, the above advice isn’t
new to you. But scammers are getting more clever every day,
so it pays to be aware of their latest schemes. Once in a
while, we all let our guard down if we don’t know what to look for.
That’s all for today — we’ll see you next week.