"National Credit Audit Corporation" Tries To Collect Bogus Debt

Brian writes us, enraged at Popular Science for sending him to a debt collector in an attempt to get him to renew his subscription. We were unsurprised to learn that Brian had received a notice from the “National Credit Audit Corporation” of lovely Peoria, IL.

Now, we’re not sure to what extent the magazines are responsible for this company’s actions, but the story is always the same. You cancel your subscription to a magazine or “free trial”, then, magically you get an official-looking letter from NCAC that tries to scare you into renewing your subscription by citing the THE FAIR DEBT COLLECTION PRACTICES ACT and OTHER SCARY LANGUAGE.

National Credit Audit Corporation is owned by Choicepoint, and the complaints on the internet are all pretty much the same as the one Brian just sent us. People sign up for trial subscriptions to magazines, then are sent the scary collection notices. If you get one of these letters we suggest reporting the company to your local attorney general.

Brian writes:

Ben, Meghann, and Carey:

I thought I’d share a story about my experience with Popular Science Magazine and their parent company, Bonnier Corp’s , efforts to renew the subscription I let expire by sending me a bogus debt collection letter.

About a year and a half ago, I had the opportunity to subscribe to Popular Science Magazine for $0.01. I never would have paid to subscribe to their magazine, but since it was basically free, I thought I ‘d give them a shot. Their subscription card indicated that the subscription would automatically renew . Being clever, I crossed that sect ion out, initialed it, wrote in ” DO NOT RENEW”, and taped a penny to the card (so they wouldn’t have my credit card or checking account information), and mailed it off. Honestly, I didn’ t think that they’d accept it , but issues starting arriving a few weeks later.

Well, the magazine turned out to be about as boring as I thought it would be, so after a year of tossing issues into trash as they arrived, I let the subscription expire. They sent me the typical renewal requests with “Urgent” and “Time Sensitive Materials Enclosed Act Now !!” splashed across them, but I wasn ‘t interested.

Fast forward to today when I receive what appears to be a debt collection notice from a company called National Credit Audit Corporation (8512 Allen Rd, Peoria, IL 61615).

The letter implies that Popular Science engaged them because I ” placed an order” for their magazine (which I never did), but failed to pay the $15.94 subscription fee . It then goes on to state that the matter can be easily resolved if I simply send them a check. It then goes on to say that, upon receipt of payment, the publisher will reinstate my subscription.

Near the bottom of the letter, there ‘s a full paragraph of very official-looking language that references the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, disputing the “debt ” within 30 days etc. I can scan and send you a copy of the letter if you’ d like.

I called the long distance number listed on the letter for NCAC and listened to the prompts. Their menu system lists a number of prompts, one of which was “If chose to accept a free offer and do not wish to continue the subscription …” After entering the 19 digit code from their letter, I was told that my subscription would be canceled and that I should disregard any future mailings.

So, they’re trying to retain me as a customer by sending renewal offers disguised as bogus debt collection notices from a so-called debt collection agency? I’ ve heard of some shitty customer service, but this takes the cake!

I then called Popular Sciences’ customer service line, and after speaking with one of their agents for several minutes, was told that this is a common practice to try to get past subscribers to renew their subscriptions and she went out of her way to assure me my subscription would be canceled and that they were not really going to send it to a collection agency.

This smells like fraud to me. I tried calling Popular Sciences’ corporate offices at 212-779-5297, but had to leave a message. I don ‘t expect that I’ ll hear back from anyone. I’m therefore submitting this story to you, contacting the Kansas Attorney General’s Office and am calling my local sensationalist news channel’s “Problem Solvers” team to expose this company’s attempt to prey on its customers.

How many consumers would fall for this scare tactic, thinking that f or the small sum of $15.94, they can resolve this “debt” without it impacting their credit rating? How many consumers are already receiving legitimate collection notices and would pay this to have it resolved? How many elderly or otherwise impaired individuals would simply pay this because it says they owe it? This is predatory, pure an d simple, and it needs to be stopped .

To Popular Science: This, you blithering idiots , is why the internet is eating your lunch!

Brian

Overland Park, KS

—MEGHANN MARCO

Choicepoint [Wikipedia]
National Credit Audit Corporation [Complaints.com]
National Credit Audit Corporation Re: Golf Magazine [Ripoff Report]

Comments

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  1. mbrutsch says:

    “elderly or otherwise impaired individuals”

    Thanks, kid. We’re not all impaired, y’know. Now GET OFF MY LAWN!

  2. timmus says:

    A link to a scan of the letter would be a really great addition to this story.

  3. remthewanderer says:

    The same thing happened to me.

    That is why I will never buy any media from Bonnier Corporation [www.bonniercorp.com] the parent company that publishes popular science.

    click the link to see the full range of magazines published by the Bonnier Corporation.

  4. aparsons says:

    Same thing happened to me with Playboy (yes, I got a gift subscription). Funny thing is, when you call NCAC, you can’t speak to a human and they assure you that they do not “report to a credit agency.” I also got a similar looking one from Fortune magazine. It’s crazy and I can imagine they get a large number of individuals who just think, “Oh shit” and pay the $15 subscription fee. This, simply, is not right.

  5. aparsons says:

    Actually, I saved this notice come to think of it. I think I’m going to start being a prick with these companies and filing lawsuits in small claims court to start getting the message across. Maybe then they will take then hint that this is ridiculous.

  6. MandM813 says:

    @mbrutsch: LMAO!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. MandM813 says:

    Oh, wait, you’re old, you might not know what that means ;)

    “Laughin my a** off”

  8. MandM813 says:

    @mbrutsch:
    Oh wait, you’re old, you may not know what that means ;)

    “Lauging my a-s-* off”

  9. RandomHookup says:

    I got one or two of these myself. I just assumed I had been sloppy in not cancelling the trial subscription when the bill came. When I called the mag direct, they just cancelled the sub on the phone.

  10. MartyCohn says:

    The Postal Inspectors like to hear about mail fraud like this. Save all of the correspondence including envelopes and call 877-876-2455. When they get enough complaints, it’s felony case against these folks.

  11. badteaparty says:

    This happened to my mom an other local businesses where we live (in Westchester). One of those “yellow books” sends out official-looking “collection notices” for advertising space in their books, which you never ordered. It is a sneaky way to try to get people to buy advertising space, and since it is sent to businesses I suspect that they have at least marginal success rates with people who think it’s just another bill and pay it.

  12. bmcgann says:

    It’s a bit sleazy but it isn’t mail fraud. Choicepoint is a huge corporation and they have their bases covered on this. It’s legal. Magazine publishers love this because they don’t have to spend a dime to send these efforts out. Choicepoint covers all of the costs (postage, printing, etc.) and just remits a portion of the amount paid back to the publisher. It’s basically free money for magazine publishers. If anyone gets these efforts and is angry about them, they should direct their anger at the magazine publishers, not Choicepoint. And you can just ignore these efforts and nothing will happen to your credit rating, etc.

  13. Christovir says:

    Does anyone remember those really crappy NOW cdroms that were common in the mid-90s? They were aimed at teenagers and were supposed to be about popular music and culture, but were really just big advertisements for CDs and movies? They started sending me a bunch of NOW cdroms around 1996 or 1997 that I did not request, and then sent me “bills” for about two years, threatening letters, final demands, etc. It was all bogus. I ignored them and it eventually stopped. Thankfully, I believe they went out of business.

  14. Vinron says:

    I suggest you file a complaint with the Illinois Attorney General’s office, consumer division, since NCAC claims its office is in Peoria. AG Lisa Madigan’s website has an online complaint form.

    I’m in Peoria myself, maybe I’ll take a drive past this ‘business.’

  15. tcp100 says:

    @aparsons: “Same thing happened to me with Playboy (yes, I got a gift subscription).”

    Aw, come on man, why do people always have to disclaim stuff like this?

    I’ve suscribed to Playboy in the past. Because I’m a guy. And I enjoy naked women. I know that’s eeeeevil and shameworthy, ain’t it!

    Anyways, this is almost as annoying as the letters sent to you by domain registrars when your domain expires, purporting to be from some official domain agency threatening loss of your domain if you don’t renew (through them, actually a random 3rd party company) now. They’re basically trying to steal your domain business.

    Honestly, any way you cut it, it’s fraud and misrepresentation. The only answer is probably some sort of lawsuit, but as there were no damages (you didn’t fall for it), you’re probably SOL unless the AG gets involved.

  16. aparsons says:

    @tcp100: Well, I did fall for it. I wasted my time dialing their hard-to-find 800 numbers. I could easily sue for the time it took me to open that junk mail, read it, google for their number, navigate their hellish prompt, key in my crazy 15 digit number, and file the notice away. I’d say I spent 20 minutes on the whole process, which adds up to a significant amount of money for any professional…

  17. tcp100 says:

    @aparsons: And if you did it in small claims, they probably wouldn’t even show, and you’d have a good chance at grabbing a nice small judgement, $1500-$2000 for your time or something.. And then you can send THEM a REAL collection letter!

    How ’bout them apples!

  18. camas22 says:

    the san francisco chronicle just did this to me. After the fourth fake notice i called them directly. the csr acted like he was a doing me a really big favor by erasing the fake $10.29 “debt”.

    Next time i get my six month subscription for $5 at the chinese new year parade I’m gonna put it under Rosebud.

    If you don’t give them any personal info, no ssn no cc #’s can they really make it hit your credit?

  19. tcp100 says:

    @camas22: No. They can’t. If they don’t have your SSN and personal info, they can’t ding your credit. However, don’t put it beyond a company like choicepoint to cross-reference your info with other records (if you do give your real name and address) and have something show up “by mistake”.

    The thing is, they cannot affirm the debt, because you didn’t sign a contract or actually place an order.

    Something like this happened to my brother; a telemarketer cleverly-worded some questions on the phone and signed him up for some CD club years ago. He tried calling and insisting that he didn’t want any of the crap and wanted them to cancel it right away, but they sent him to collections regardless. (The company doesn’t care – they’re done with you at that point. They get a fraction of the debt paid by the agency; then it’s the agency’s problem)

    Somehow, the agency (probably through unsavory means) got hold of his info for his credit report, and dinged him. I’m sure they knew they had no evidence to back it up – but they probably figured most people would just pay to make it go away, and placed their bets on that. No such luck.

    As you’re supposed to, he called up the bureaus and contested the reporting, saying that it was a fraudulent debt and that it was a debt he never owed. The company was not able to prove otherwise (as they must by law within 30 days in such a situation) as they had no evidence he ordered or signed up for anything (well, because he didn’t!)

    These folks make their money by assuming people won’t be savvy or know what’s up. When you are, you’re their worst enemy, and they don’t last too long.

    Realize that if something ever does show up on your report, the second you contest it, the laws of the FCRA come into play, and then everyone has to start playing by the rules. Collection agencies are hoping you’ll give up before getting to that point.

  20. Boston Kevin says:

    I recently got one of these exact same notices for The Nation. I called in to dispute. As the original poster says, it only takes one 30 second completely automated phone call to have them off your back. But still, yeah, it sucks.

  21. Call Choicepoint’s Peoria corporate offices direct at (309) 689-1000. They’re heavily involved in local charities and very image-conscious in the Peoria community. They DO NOT like bad publicity.

    (And honestly I’ve worked with their people on charitable events and it’s not a bad company as these things go. At least the management folks at the local HQ aren’t.)

    If nothing else you won’t get the phone jockeys but actual people who may be empowered to help.

    PS — I got out of a similar scam (by Glamour) by telling them I didn’t want their magazine because I felt it encouraged unrealistic body images in teenaged girls, pushing them into bulemia, anorexia, and, in the extreme, suicide. The rep was so taken aback by my tirade (it went on for a while) that he cancelled the scam subscription, contacted the collection agency, and agreed to have anything necessary removed from my credit report. And indeed, all three occurred.

  22. Starfury says:

    I’ve signed up for stuff using a fake name. It’s fun to get mail to Arthur Dent.

    I’m sure someone will get the reference.

  23. humphrmi says:

    Starfury: I think I’m a sofa…

  24. ThinkAboutItPlease says:

    Check out ChoicePoint’s direct marketing services: [www.choicepoint.com]

    “unmatched coverage, depth and accuracy on more than 210 million consumers.” Creepy.

    On their “overview” page they state, “Since 1997 ChoicePoint has been a leading provider of decision-making technology and information that helps reduce fraud and mitigate risk.” Do they exempt themselves from the fraud reduction thing?

  25. AnnieGetYourFun says:

    @Eyebrows:

    Magazine subscriptions and the collection agencies that they send your invoice to do not have access to your social security number (unless you gave it to them) and are thus not legally able to tranish your credit report with their whining.

    I got something in college from Time Magazine that talked about how I had “sullied our good faith relationship” and how they were “forced” to report me to a credit bureau. In a panic, I called Time and was assured by the CSR that without my SS#, nothing could be added to my credit report.

  26. bigvicproton says:

    Popular Science, just cancelled it. I heard some kid was filling out trial subscriptions with the names of everyone he could find that worked in the state attorney general’s office. bad kid, very bad kid…:)

  27. korian says:

    This so called “collection” company is still active – sending out their collection notices to the unwary.

    Today I received a notice from them stating that I had an outstanding debt of $5.00. Hmmm. $5.00? From ordering an add-on magazine a couple of months ago from an on-line service run by the Hearst Corporation.

    At the time I placed my order I paid for it all with my credit card, but for some reason, the Hearst Corp said my $5 payment for this one magazine didn’t go through (but all the rest of my order did).

    Since I wasn’t sure, I waited until my credit bill arrived. It wasn’t paid, and then things got hectic here – you know the usual Summer stuff – kids off – Mom visiting – that I forgot to pay the $5.00. Hey – at the time I’d rather buy a Gallon of Gas with the fiver, wouldn’t you?

    So I got a bill from Hearst – asking will you please Pay? I put it aside. I had my own problems – plus I only had received one magazine from them anyway. So I thought they canceled the subscription.

    Then another bill came – this one said I could pay via the Internet – Yea! they’re in the 21st Century – Hip, Hip, Hooray! Thank God for the Internet!!

    So I paid my $5.00 via the Hearst Corp website and I thought all was well. That was two weeks ago..

    Then in today’s mail I get this notice – and written at the top, in great big letters – on bright red background is

    Collection Notice – action requested (return top portion with your payment),

    Followed by:

    This is to notify you that the amount listed herewith is now past due and must be received.

    All official like – and it goes on to give a File No: and a code, then the magazine name, the date the notice was sent – the amount due – in BIG BOLD BLACK LETTERS : $5.00

    with the company’s name:

    National Credit Audit Corporation (who??)

    (ooooooohhhhh….I’m soooooo frightened……)

    Followed by:

    “Dear Korian,

    We all make mistakes. I’m sure most of us want them cleared up as quickly as possible. That’s why your name was referred to us by the publisher of House Beautiful.”

    Folks, years ago, when I was just out of college, I received REAL Collection Notices – and by Golly, this Collection Notice is not a real notice. This notice is meant to intimidate someone into paying money for a magazine subscription – whether or not they ordered it!

    Face it – when do companies transfer these low amounts to Collection Agencies?? NEVER. Most companies will write it off – especially $5.00 – come on! $5 bucks?

    What perturbs me even more is that I already paid for the damn subscription. Now I feel like canceling that subscription since they had the nerve to say, I never paid for it. Shoot!

    This is the publishing companies at their worse.

    As an aside – someone mentioned using different names (not real names) in completing subscription cards. First, I want you all to know that it is illegal to falsely completely a magazine subscription card or any other type of card for someone other than yourself.

    Now that’s out of the way – when I reply to some of the internet scam emails I receive, I use various names such as we’ve always used for Holidays and times of the year characters – for example – Mr. Valentine Hart, Mr. Patrick Day, Miss Esther Bonnett and Mr. Jack O’Lantern have always worked for me.

    Another good group to get names from are the Drag Queens. Oh, Don’t laugh! These Queens are highly imaginative in creating their names and persona’s to go with them. Some of my favorite ones are: Tequila Mockingbird, Crystal DeCanter, Kitten Kaboodle, Amanda Reckonwith and of course the all time favorite Bertha Venation.

    Korian

  28. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for publishing this. I ok’d a free subscription to SELF magaine and then received the same so-called collection letter. After reading this webpage, I called and went through the prompts and hopefully this is now resolved. I seriously thought this was real. Thanks again.

  29. Anonymous says:

    I have received 3 collection notices for a magazine I have never, in 28 years of nursing subscribed to. I have called the American Journal of Nursing 3 times to resolve this. I can not get in touch with NCAC. So, do you pay it or fight it. Fighting wastes valuable time, but I don’t owe it. Any thoughts? The AJN did tell me this was not a reporting agency….Trust that or not?