San Francisco woman warns of fake subscription renewals sent to homes

SAN FRANCISCO -- Companies operating under many names are sending out bills claiming to be renewing people's subscriptions, but they're actually pocketing people's money.

This happened to a San Francisco woman who asked that 7 On Your Side warn others.

Nancy Dickson is a longtime subscriber to the San Francisco Chronicle.

"I love having coffee in the morning, reading the news," she said.

So, it was no surprise when a renewal notice came in the mail, although the price seemed a little high.

"It was $799.95, but that's for weekly delivery seven days a week," she said.

She paid it, and thought nothing of it. Until six months later.

"We got a letter from the Chronicle saying basically we'd been scammed," she said.

It turns out that invoice was not from the Chronicle at all. It was from Associated Publishers Network and it had no connection to the newspaper.

"Basically, they're holding $800 of our money that went to absolutely nothing," Dickson said.

The company did eventually pay the Chronicle for her renewal, but it cost only $611. The phony renewal service pocketed the other $200.

"No wonder it seemed like a high price to me," Dickson said.

She contacted 7 On Your Side and we found out this company operates under many names. The Oregon Attorney General has filed a lawsuit charging the operators with civil racketeering. The suit says they mailed fake invoices to readers nationwide, raking in $20 million over the past five years.

Dickson wants to people to know that these bogus renewal notices may be coming your way.

"Now I know if I get something in the mail, to double check it," she said.

Calls placed to the Associated Publishers Network failed because the phones were disconnected. The Chronicle said it did not accept payments from the unauthorized renewal services; however, it did give Dickson a free one-year subscription to make up for her loss.
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