Scam Targeted Seniors and the Vulnerable
DENVER—The Colorado Attorney General’s Office has stopped another magazine company and its owners from deceiving consumers in order to secure magazine subscriptions. Subscriber Services Inc., owner David Keown and office manager, Marsha Ness are now barred by a court order from tricking Coloradans into believing that they will receive a $250 voucher and three free magazines in exchange for purchasing one magazine at a bargain price. The court found that these business practices violated the Colorado Consumer Protection Act.
“Subscriber Services is the fourth magazine-sales fraud scam we’ve prosecuted in as many years – these rip-off artists don’t seem to get the point that we are not going away until they do,” said Colorado Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman. “We are warning Coloradans to beware of these too-good-to-be-true offers. In this case, there was no $250 voucher, and it was nearly impossible to claim the supposed rebate. Instead, customers ended up with some of the most expensive magazines ever read.”
Post cards and text messages claimed consumers had won an “unclaimed reward.” However, the $250 voucher “good at participating restaurants and retail stores” was bogus because the company did not have a business relationship with any of the merchants. To receive any benefit, consumers had to spend $1,000 in non-grocery items in increments of at least $100 over ten consecutive months at the same store. According to the company’s records, from mid-2012 through September 2014, more than 35,000 consumers nationwide ordered magazines yet fewer than 1% received any rebate at all and only .05% received $250 in rebate checks.
Subscriber Services claimed that consumers were obligated to pay up to $1,300 under a so-called “contract” for magazine subscriptions. The Attorney General’s investigation concluded that even when consumers called the same day they ordered service, Subscriber Services refused to cancel their orders. The refusal to cancel was followed by aggressive collection tactics.
The court order bars the defendants from continuing to collect money from consumers who were offered the $250 gift voucher. The order also prohibits Subscriber Services, Keown, and Ness from telling consumers that they have won a prize or reward; that they have been “selected” for a magazine promotion; and from making false or misleading statements about the price they charge for magazines, among other things.
The Colorado Consumer Protection Act (CCPA) provides certain protections against unsolicited magazine sales and subscriptions within Colorado. The law states that the sender of a magazine or other periodical shall cancel a subscription if any invoice is returned by the recipient marked ‘cancel.’ To learn more about magazine sales scams and to report fraud, Coloradans should visit www.stopfraudcolorado.gov.
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