Keep an eye on your magazine renewal subscriptions. Consumers all across the country want others to avoid payment to Associated Publishers Network (APN)-a renewal subscription "company" claiming an address near Las Vegas, Nevada. Complaints from different people and institutions are pouring in from everywhere-from a law library in Boston to a woman living in Wever, Iowa. Records show there are 112 complaints filed with BBB against Associated Publishers Network in the last year; six complaints are from Marylanders.
It breaks down like this. You get a renewal notice. You write the check. You wait. Your subscription grinds to a halt. You contact the magazine and they tell you they have no working relationship with APN. Assuming you retained your paperwork, you call the renewal company. You likely won't speak to a person. If you do, they don't act. Calls and emails are most frequently not acknowledged; in the end, your request for a refund is left hanging in the air like an empty pfffft sound from a pneumatic tube.
"After being alerted by a Rosedale business owner and Wall Street Journal subscriber, BBB took a closer look at the solicitation sent by APN and learned it was using a UPS Store location as its billing address," said Angie Barnett, president and CEO, Better Business Bureau serving Greater Maryland. "While there are legitimate reasons for a small business to utilize this service, the professionalism gained through a real street address will also add credibility to a scam artist's scheme."
Publishers have taken notice, and records show the New York Times has filed a complaint with BBB. According to NYT's representative, Associated Publishers Network "is not associated with the New York Times and is not authorized to solicit renewals for subscriptions."
Dow Jones & Company, which operates The Wall Street Journal, has issued its own fraud alert to respond to mounting complaints. They say that APN purports to do business on behalf of The Wall Street Journal using various names: United Publisher's Clearing House, National Magazine Services, Orbital Publishing, and Publisher's Billing Exchange. Each of these so-called "companies" shares the same address with Associated Publishers Network, which is 850 S Boulder Hwy., Henderson, Nevada or a P.O. Box in Oregon.
Marylanders are chiming in as well. A Bethesda, Md. subscriber states, "I called & told [the magazine] we had already renewed with APN and they said that APN is not affiliated with The Economist at all and they have lawsuits currently against APN for fraud."
"This is a fraudulent business posing as The Wall Street Journal renewal service," says a complainant from Severna Park, Md. In addition to Bethesda and Severna Park, other subscriber complaints have been reported from Baltimore, Silver Spring, Catonsville, and Havre de Grace.
All of this serves as an important reminder that subscription solicitations need to be examined closely, which is why BBB advises customers to check the payment address of subscription solicitors; also, to avoid third party billers and to not provide questionable agents with financial information. If you feel that you have received a fraudulent renewal invoice, file a complaint with BBB . You may also want to report false solicitations to the Maryland Attorney General Office of Consumer Protection , and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service .