UPDATED: NYMag: Collections Threatened For Sub You Think You Never Ordered

You know we’re at death’s door for the print industry when they have to resort to a sleazy subscription tactic like this debt collection warning New York Mag sent Keith’s wife for a subscription she believes she never signed up for. Keith called the number on the back of the card and a customer service rep said that an “affiliate” put in the order. Dawn let Keith cancel the order without fuss. When Keith asked why the company was threatening to send people to collections for something they never ordered , “Dawn” said, “Don’t worry…it doesn’t make a difference since we don’t have your social security number and we will never ask for it.” As if that’s going to protect you from a debt collector. UPDATE: NYmag says the subscription renewal was valid and the customer must have forgotten about it. Full response inside.

Has anyone else ever gotten a debt collection notice for a magazine they never ordered or received?

In response to this post, New York Mag’s Communications Manager, Lauren Starke, said, “[T]he invoice in question was for a valid renewal order made for the magazine (which has since been cancelled through customer service and the subscriber won’t receive further invoices). I know it’s easy to lose track of everything one orders…Based on the name and zip code our circulation department was able to locate this customer’s account. In this case, the specific code on the account was from a renewal offer that was mailed to her and mailed back to us.”

We asked Keith for a followup response to see if there was any way his wife had somehow forgotten that she sent in a renewal, or if they even had ordered NYMag in the past at all. He says, “My wife says that when she signed up for a website http://www.vault.com, she started to received New York Magazine. They never charged her for it (and we barely glanced at it). When I called them (NY Mag) yesterday (shortly before I e-mailed you) the representative said (in no uncertain terms) that the subscription was made through an affiliate (no doubt, vault.com). To be clear, she has never, ever, not even once ordered or paid for a New York Magazine (subscription or otherwise).”


Edit Your Comment

  1. B says:

    That’s an expensive sandwich.

  2. Angryrider says:

    Don’t you think it’s kind of odd that “New York Magazine” has a PO Box in Florida?

  3. dragonfire81 says:

    See folks this is what happens when you do business with a company who sells your information to other companies.

  4. ezacharyk says:

    Wouldn’t this be considered mail fraud? Isn’t that illegal?

  5. I wonder if NY Mag really had anything to do with this. Details on how you determined this was a hoax would be appreciated.

  6. humphrmi says:

    @Angryrider: A lot of companies have bill payment processing centers or hire those services located in other states.

  7. SarcasticDwarf says:

    @ezacharyk: It might be mail fraud, but would they ever be prosecuted? How often do you ever hear of that happening?

  8. johnva says:

    @SarcasticDwarf: Charge their CEO with one count of criminal mail fraud for every copy of a notice like this sent out. I bet it would stop really fast.

  9. econdave says:

    “Mew York Mag”? Is that like “Cat Fancy”?

  10. @B: Ha! Thats the same thing I thought.

  11. I have been getting notices like this for a while now…but I don’t think they’re from NY Mag. I believe they may be from the Sun. I only forget because I’ve stopped paying attention to them. At any rate, the notices are from a publication I’ve never subscribed to and have never received. None of these bullshit threat letters have ever affected my credit, so I have trouble taking them seriously.

  12. I was somehow signed up for a bunch of Rodale magazines last month. I assumed it was by an outside firm that was getting a bounty for new subscribers. The thing that freaked me out, though, is that they had my e-mail address: how they ever associated it with my street address is beyond me, and Rodale never responded to my requests for an explanation. (Does ABC do audits or establish ratings at a certain time in the year? If so, that would make me suspect that the magazine companies are in on it – trying to boost subscriptions for a month, then canceling the subscriptions when people complain).

    It’s not the first time it’s happened in the magazine industry, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

  13. MissPeacock says:

    This happened to me with Vogue once. I called them and got it taken care of pretty quickly.

  14. themediatrix says:

    You know, it’s possible she angered a neighbor or something.

  15. @B: I had to read the whole thing twice to figure out how they got a sandwich from a magazine company. Does typing “subscription” really take that much time?

  16. Anonymous says:

    I know this much: it’s absolutely criminal to miss out on Maura Jacobs weekly crossword puzzle.

  17. Scoobatz says:

    There’s a similar scam going around for Handyman Club of America. I received unsolicated mail which included a bill for $24 for a year subscription. The letter indicated that if I didn’t pay, I would be sent to collections. To make matters worse, the letter did not provide any contact information so I could dispute these charges. I spent a hour searching for a number on the Internet (800-209-9606). Fortunately, it was fairly easy to cancel and they even mailed me a post card with confirmation of my cancellation. (Of course, can I really cancel something I never signed up for?)

  18. plasticene says:

    However quickly this can be taken care of, it’s a waste of even five minutes calling time. This is a good reason to drop your subscription (or never get one) for New York Magazine. It may be an outside company doing this (which, naturally, was hired by NYM). But this will stop when circ declines.

  19. PaisleyPajamas says:

    @MissPeacock: This just happened to me with Vogue. I just 5 minutes ago posted on another blog about it.

    Breathing a big sigh of relief over here that it doesn’t squeak my credit.

  20. Cheap Shot says:

    Whoah! this story blew my mind.

  21. PinkBox says:

    I also have a magazine subscription somehow that I don’t want and don’t remember signing up for.

    I’ve gotten three magazines so far, and got a collection notice.

    I sent a letter to them about it, but have yet to get any sort of reply.

    Extremely annoying.

  22. Buran says:

    @NameGoesHere: If they do go after you, you can request that they can prove that the debt is actually owed (proof that you requested the subscription). If they can’t prove the debt valid, they can’t collect on it. Also, don’t discount the “drop dead” collector letter.

  23. blackmage439 says:

    Wow. The use of all the “I’s” screams “SCAM”. No company would ever refer to you so personally. Only a fool would fall for this and pay up before contacting the company.

  24. Invalid_User_Name says:

    I’ve always wondered how much postage and printing costs these companies waste in trying to collect a $17.00 “debt.”

  25. angrychicken says:

    I got something very similar from The Atlantic, who threatened to send my imaginary subscription to collections. When my boyfriend called they said “oh, you don’t have a subscription with us anymore, you don’t owe us anything” and that was that, even though the letter clearly stated that we owed them money. Because that’s how to win my loyalty – threaten me with imaginary collections. I’ll be sure to subscribe rather than read the entire thing online.

  26. Jmatthew says:

    Remember it doesn’t take anything but a name and an address to sign someone up for a subscription. there’s usually not even a signature line on those things. I’m sure this happens all the time and the magazine just writes it off.

    My question: Did you recieve any new york magazines?

    Usually when I’ve subscribed to a mag I get 2 or 3 issues before I get a bill.

  27. annelise13 says:

    Us Weekly recently started me on a “three issue trial” subscription out of the blue. When I sent an email to the address provided to cancel this subscription, I was told that they had no record of me. Somehow I never got that third issue, though.

    I also got one of those collection notices a few months back, can’t remember what magazine it was for. I figured it for a bluff, particularly since I’d never subscribed to that mag and never gotten any issues, so I just tossed it. And I have to say I didn’t appreciate them trying to drum up a subscription by scaring me with the “collections” word. For shame.

  28. induscreed says:

    I have been getting collections notices from Northern Shore Agency for a Magazine i never ordered.

    Since they dont have my ssn, I just trash the mail.

  29. MissPeacock says:

    @PaisleyPajamas: I phoned the collection agency on the notice, told them in no uncertain terms that I hadn’t ordered the subscription and had not received any issues, and they removed the collections notice. Just be firm with them when you call.

  30. mrbill says:

    Stereophile did this to me a couple of years ago. The kicker is that I paid the bill, and then didn’t even get a full subscription worth of issues.

    At least they didn’t pull a Wired and threaten to send me to collections for not renewing the sub.

  31. spanky says:

    Assuming this is actually a scam and not just some kind of mistake, report it to the postal inspection service.

    If you just throw it away and ignore it, they’ll keep doing it.

  32. DaveB says:

    I got one last week that said “they will no longer be carrying PC Gamer( a mag I actually subscribe to) and that I should choose another magazine” Well I called PC Gamer and they said it was bullshit and that some other mag subscription company was trying to scam me into thinking I couldn’t receive the mag anymore.

  33. Peach82 says:

    This happened to my roommate – when her subscription to People ran out, she didn’t renew it – just let it end. People sent countless notices from the collection agency for a subscription she never ordered (and she was not still receiving the magazine, either). They told her she had to call to cancel a subscription – since when?

  34. Jmatthew says:

    I thought PC gamer was being discontinued as a print magazine?

  35. bohemian says:

    If you never actually signed up for anything and never received anything isn’t the threat of pay up or go to collections sort of extortion?

    This sounds like another one of those statistical scams. For everyone to complains, they stop sending notices, those that ignore them just wastes postage costs, then there are a few that will pay these out of ignorance & fear.

  36. Nytmare says:

    If someone else had signed you up for the magazine, you would have first received some issues and a regular bill — not just a collection notice.

  37. Czum says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the mag industry’s version of “churn”:
    1. Hire an arm’s length company to add names to your magazine’s subscription list
    2. Charge advertisers higher rates based on the artificially inflated reach
    3. Profit!

    It doesn’t matter if people ask to drop out – there will be a new batch of names added next month. It might be possible to inflate the subscriber list by 5 to 10% this way.

    As an added bonus, some people will pay the bill without really looking at it, some may end up taking ongoing subscriptions, and some will be cowed by the threat thinking that they have to pay to avoid damaging their credit score. Win win all around!

    If someone calls to complain, either claim a mistake, or state that an “affiliate” signed you up. Take them off the list painlessly (so that they won’t complain to anyone in authority), and don’t worry about it because they will be replaced soon.

    Lather, rinse, repeat…

  38. macinjosh says:

    @SarcasticDwarf: Sure, that’s how they took down Bendini, Lambert, and Locke!

  39. This happened to me from Playboy magazine! I got a few letters forwarded to my home from an old college dorm address I once lived at, saying that some amount was past due and was going to be turned over to a collections agency. The letters were of a moderately nasty tone like the one in the article above.

    Instead of contacting Playboy, I went straight to the US Post Office and filed a complaint of mail fraud. Either someone at my old college subscribed to Playboy using my name, or Playboy was up to no good sending out fake bills. I soon got another letter from Playboy, this time apologizing for the problem and saying I owed nothing and that they would take all of my information out of their system and I’d never hear from them again. I’m assuming the USPS opened a pretty big can of whoop-ass on them to get them to reply so quickly.

  40. PaisleyPajamas says:

    @MissPeacock: Oh, I called Vogue to let them know I had members of the local District Attorney’s office on speed dial and they are a bored bunch this time of year.

  41. Prosumerist says:

    @LastVigilante: Mail fraud = teh awesome! One advantage of ever-rising postage is the ability to leverage the only useful Federal Agency in your favor.

  42. Eldritch says:

    I got shit like this too from Rolling Stone. I had a subscription that was good until August 09, and yet they sent me to collections. It was a North Shore Agency debt collection company that I heard was a scam. I called up Rolling Stone, who said they didn’t send it and that it had to be a scam. I guess they spoke to North Shore because I haven’t gotten another letter yet.

    They were really mean letters though. Fucking scammers. It was for 12 bucks too! I mean, seriously?

  43. AD8BC says:

    A few months ago I started receiving some magazine named Blender. I never subscribed to this magazine, seems kind of trashy. And not the good kind of trashy, either. I really have no use for it. It’s too glossy to cut up into 4″ strips with perforations.

    Anyway, this might explain how I got on their subscription list. Up until now I just ignored it.

  44. trujunglist says:

    Umm, I wouldn’t just ignore a collections letter because it didn’t have your social security number on it. Although it is much harder to get that crap onto your report without a sn and the collections agency may not have the resources, most collections agencies have huge databases of information or have the ability to call up other collections agencies or businesses and trade info on debtor accounts. If you have a debt with someone, have ever had a debt with someone, or even if you don’t but have given out your social to some company that may have it in their database, YOU ARE NOT SAFE. That’s what skiptracers are for. The higher the amount you “owe,” the more likely that this will happen.
    Protect yourself from the scammers immediately!

  45. Jesse says:

    I bought a few books from a book club a couple years back. They then started just sending me stuff I didn’t order and expected me to pay for it. Those collection agnecies mailed me letters for about a year and eventually they stopped.

  46. AD8BC says:

    @LastVigilante: A few years after a college roommate of mine moved out, someone there received an application to join a record club (addressed to him) and they signed up.

    This normally mild-mannered person called them and opened up a can of whoop-ass on the record club, and they dropped the whole thing…

  47. chgoeditor says:

    I’m confused by the connection between Vault.com and New York Mag. Was there any mention of NY Mag on the Vault website when she signed up? Because most magazine subscriptions take 6-8 weeks to arrive after you subscribe. If I got a random magazine in my mailbox today, I’d be hard-pressed to connect it to some random website I signed up with two months ago.

  48. biblio26 says:

    I had this problem with NY Magazine. I had a one year complimentary subscription with them (can’t remember how I got it) and chose not to renew. I did get a few magazines after the subscription period ended but that happens a lot when you don’t renew. I then stopped getting the magazines. I didn’t actively cancel. I just didn’t renew. Then, I got a letter from a “collection agency” saying that I owed them for the subscription. It was such a small amount of money and I am really anal about paying everything on time so I just paid them to not have to deal with it. After I paid, my subscription started up again. UGH. I guess I have to call them and tell them that I don’t want to renew. I feel like an idiot for paying them now.

  49. biblio26 says:

    @biblio26: I just looked at my collection notice and it’s from the National Credit Audit Corporation. If I had taken the time to look it up when I received it, I would have noticed that it’s a scam and there are tons of people complaining about them. I’ll know better next time. From Consumerist last year: [consumerist.com]

  50. Cee Bee says:

    this is interesting. i bought some tickets to a music event a couple of months ago and was susbcribed instantly to ny mag as part of the deal. i found this weird tobegin with, but after reading this

  51. chauncy that billups says:

    @mrbill: Yeah, Wired did the same thing to me!

  52. keith4298 says:

    @Jmatthew: Yes, my wife did start getting the magazine. @chgoeditor: Apparently after she signed up on the web site for Vault it said that she’d be receiving a complimentary subscription for NY Mag. In other words, they sent it and didn’t give her an opt-out.

  53. FrankReality says:

    I occasionally get a bill from some outfit that essentially thanks me for my first payment for a subscription to a magazine I get, but demands a second payment.

    The catches are that there was no first payment made and that the second payment is incredibly high – about 3 times greater than the normal subscription renewal price. These always pop up several months before my renewal is due. Some of these have sent second and third notices as if they’re threatening collections.

    It’s just a scam to fool the consumer into renewing their subscriptions at a insanely high price. They are bogus. The MN State Attorney General has issued a cease and desist order and is working on a suit.

    For this particular magazine, I order the subscription direct from the publisher and since I’m a long term subscriber, I get the best value from them.

  54. TangDrinker says:

    This happens a lot. I’m a librarian and I see this sort of thing all the time. You can just write (in HUGE letters) CANCEL on the invoice and stick it back in the mail to them.

    Also – another scam is to send you an invoice that appears to be a continuation or renewal of a publication – even though you’ve never subscribed to it. Usually they send you a trial out of the blue and then the invoice.

    I’ve never had a collection agency call me for ignoring the sort of invoice pictured above, but your mileage may vary. I figure if the “collections” notice doesn’t even have a phone number on it, I’m gonna toss it.

  55. usmcmoran says:

    I always drop or add a few letters in my name when i subscribe to magazines, this way when the fake notices or junk mail come i know exactly who sold what information to a 3rd party and if it is a scam or not.

  56. Leofan7 says:

    The fuckers at Popular Science did the same thing to me when my first subscription expired. Guess that’s what I get for subscribing for one year of the world’s most boring magazine.

  57. TimmyGUNZ says:

    I had a similar experience with GQ. I had subscribed for a year and as my subscription was winding down I decided I wasn’t going to renew. Well GQ kept sending me issues and billing notices saying “your subscription is expired, please renew.” After 3 or 4 of these, I called GQ and told them I did not want to resubscribe and to please stop contacting me. Two months later I get a collection notice in the mail and was furious. I call them that night and demanded this be retracted. Conveniently, GQ had no record of my calling to tell them I did not want to resubscribe and turned my non-payment over to their collections agency.

    What really pissed me off is that when I subscribed originally, it was on one of those postcard inserts and there were no terms that said I would be auto-subscribed.

  58. Ben Popken says:

    Doug writes:

    I had something similar happen to me this past fall. I started receiving Time Out NY, which I don’t–and didn’t–subscribe to. I called to find out why I’d received it. I was informed that the subscription was a “gift” from a company I’d never heard of or even been in contact with. I requested the subscription be cancelled, and asked how they got my info. The customer service agent had no idea, but did inform me that the company had “gifted” a lot of people. Why? I asked. Whispering, the agent said, It’s some kind of scam. I asked how it worked, but he didn’t know. I cancelled the sub and haven’t received issues since.”

  59. keith4298 says:

    @Ben Popken: The proof that NY Mag sent was a blank postcard with two options (neither of which was checked) and no name or address on the card. Is this a joke?

  60. AlphaTeam says:

    No I haven’t gotten this from magazines, but I have gotten notices from Sprint after they lost my payment; not fun.