Feb 16 2010

How a Friend Lost $1,300 to a Magazine Scam

Deceptive businesses exist all around the world and we hear stories of fraud and scamming. The extremity of such deceitful practices is unknown until it hits close to home.

Among the common fraud schemes such as Nigerian money transfers and pyramid scams, there is the popular magazine scam – the one my friend became a victim of.

What Happened the Friend
Johnny, a close friend, was a subscriber to ESPN Magazine when he got a call from a representative of “World Wide Readers Service”. The caller went straight into offering a number of other magazines in addition to Johnny’s current subscription of ESPN Magazine for a discount price of $50 per month. Assuming it was a legit offer (since they knew of his current subscription with ESPN), Johnny gave out his billing information.

For the following four months, Johnny saw a charge on his monthly credit card statement for $49.99 without receiving a single magazine in the mail. Upon realizing that he had just became a victim of a telemarketing magazine scam, Johnny canceled his credit card to prevent the company from charging him again.

Seeing that they weren’t getting their monthly dose of scammed money from Johnny, they gave him a call to obtain new credit card information – along with the threat to report him to a collection agency if he failed to do so. The next obvious step was to request a cancellation to stop these ludicrous charges. Their response: Sure. Just pay the cancellation fee of $1,100.

Apparently, they claimed that Johnny had a 3-day cancellation period in order to avoid the cancellation fee. But really, who can get five different magazines to an address within three days of ordering? And, I should mention that all their contact numbers are supposedly out-of-service.

What they used to hold him accountable is a voice recording of the initial phone call in which he entered a verbal contract with them. Any affirmative response could be added into an audio editing that actually makes him sound like he agreed to their terms.

The cancellation fee is quite a steep amount but it is holding Johnny’s good credit as hostage. The company had strategically put an amount which was large enough that someone would rather pay it than hire a lawyer.

What Did Johnny Do?
Well, Johnny decided to pay the cancellation fee of $1,100. He used a voice recorder for all calls between him and the scammers. He also requested a written letter of cancellation. The entire ordeal was a reason for constant worries and many sleepless nights – he just wanted to get it over with.

Was there a better approach that Johnny could have used in handling his situation?

Surely, he probably could have pursued legal advice and action. It would have been a taxing endeavor (both mentally and financially) even without yielding to the scammers’ demand.

But, he’d rather have this problem out of his life as soon as possible. Despite being out $1,300, Johnny learned a valuable lesson and is glad that it is all over now. There is very little he can do now other than sharing his story in an effort to prevent others from becoming a victim.

How to Avoid Becoming a Victim
Avoiding these magazine scams is easily done by becoming a savvy shopper. Most people would think “this is too good to be true”. Aggressive sales tactics play a big part in the success of these bogus companies.

  • Confirm the affiliation of the caller. Note the details of a telephone offer from the company. Call the official company number and inquire on the offer details.
  • Never provide any personal or financial information to anyone over the phone (except trusted sources). Once you provide personal and financial information, it implies that you agreed to something. This will jeopardize your privacy and credit – and it looks bad for you if you decide to take legal action.
  • Perform a quick Google search with the “name of the company” and the word “scam”. Google will provide you the best and fastest way of determining the legitimacy of a company. Any signs of shady business practices means you should hang up right now.
  • Do not say anything indicating your agreement to a verbal contract. Make a note to not say “yes” or “I agree” to a telemarketer. Altering a voice recording is quite simple.
  • Request paperwork and info/terms. Having everything in a written document is a way to obtain proof of agreed terms and details. If you want to cancel anything, request a letter of cancellation. You’ll have proof ready when they decide to dispute your cancellation.

Johnny hopes that sharing this story and experience would help others avoid becoming victims of similar companies in the future. And, I hope that everyone who stumbles upon this article through a search for “World Wide Readers Service” will realize that they are a scam before falling prey to them.

(Photo credit: jepoirrer)

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6 Comments on this post

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  1. ParisGirl111 said:

    I can not believe that they got money and was able to keep it. I would have fought this to the death..not neceesarily for time reasons but for the principle that scammers should not get away with scamming. Wow. That’s too bad for your friend.

    February 16th, 2010 at 10:53 am
  2. JoeTaxpayer said:

    $50/mo? How many magazines can one person read? $600/yr will get you about 30 subscriptions, give or take.
    This just seems fishy.

    February 18th, 2010 at 12:20 am
  3. Simon Zhen said:

    That’s right. It is fishy because when calculated out subscription by subscription, their price is actually close to or higher than the cover price. But because it was bundled together into a single offer with little research that could have been done before the agreement (thanks to aggressive sales tactics), many would think they’re getting a deal.

    February 18th, 2010 at 2:19 am
  4. Daddy Paul said:

    Thank you for exposing another scam.

    March 2nd, 2010 at 12:24 pm
  5. nai-yo said:

    Ok i am also a victem of this scam…i would also like to share my horrible experiance with every body …however i am curious as to what magazine company your friend was refering to …i am actually trying to file a legal claim and this company i am refering to has verry bad company history and i am also warning wany friends ,co workers,anyone willing to listen …IVE read so many complaints far to close in common to be coincidence of randome people who dont even know eachother complaints about a 1000.00 shopping spree that apearently no one reseaved after a promise made but never kept then attempting to sue the consumer…i call that breach of contract by not honering their part of the deal while i paid in full for 9 months and sometimes being billed 2 times in the same month… i believe that i was more than patient waiting that long for something i should have recieved with my first magazine but eventually a figured out that i will never get the voucher i was promised by like 6 different sales reps …in the policy i mucho later realized it stated that to cancel this agreement with no obligation i would have had 5 days to call and or write a notice of cancelation….however i was told that my magazines would not start comming for like a nother 2 weeks to a month and i would have also recieve the voucher at the same time …so at the time i did not know about the terms and conditions but finding out too late im left thinking how am i goin to figure i want to cancel a service in 5 days when i wouldnt have experianced the services to say im not satisfied i want out …so thats only half of my issue with there theives i would get more spacific but i still would like to play it safe right now …however if you or anyone is familiar with my post and believe you’ ve been taken by the same telemarketer as me then id be interested in making sure would be victems will know to avoid companies and thieves who work for them and expose the false advertisment and fraudes that they are….

    July 30th, 2011 at 12:02 am
  6. nai-yo said:

    by the way just because the callers give out a publishing magazine name does not mean that one company is not affiliated to the other …in some cases they are runned by the same people just didfferent names ( alias’s) just keep that in mind …

    July 30th, 2011 at 12:11 am

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