Consumer Alert: Scammers target newspaper subscribers

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Scammers are targeting people who subscribe to newspapers and magazines.

The thieves are calling up customers or sending them fake renewal notices.

An Action 2 News viewer says he received a suspicious call about his newspaper subscription. The caller told him his credit card was expiring. The scammer claimed to have the last four digits of the card, but needed the rest of the numbers.

The viewer started asking questions and the caller hung up.

An investigator with the Better Business Bureau says it has the hallmarks of a subscription scam.

"Calling on the phone was something a little bit new. What we generally see are phony invoice schemes. That's kind of an old trick where the invoices look legitimate. It looks like they're coming directly from the newspaper or the particular publication and they're not," says Lisa Schiller, BBB of Wisconsin. "Even if it sounds legitimate to be on the safe side we would suggest hanging up, and calling the newspaper or publication directly."

The BBB said a phony mailer made the rounds a few years ago. More than 800 complaints were filed by people who received what appeared to be a bill for a subscription to the Milwaukee Business Journal.

The company wasn't authorized to offer the subscriptions and prices were significantly higher.

Here's how to avoid falling victim to a subscription scam:

--Keep records of your subscriptions to magazines and newspapers.

--Verify the business. Make sure it's the real company contacting you.

--Ask questions. Contact the company directly. Use the contact information that's on your bill.

The viewer who called Target 2 about the scam said he contacted newspaper company Gannett. They informed him that Gannett does not make calls asking for credit card numbers.

Consumer advocates tell us scammers hope to benefit from confusion.

If you would like to file a scam complaint or a complaint regarding a subscription service, contact the BBB at 800-273-1002.

"You cannot trust the person on the other end of a phone call no matter what it is anymore," says Schiller. "Callers can spoof phone numbers very easily, they can claim to be with any agency, or organization or company that they want. And they can sound very legitimate and convincing over the phone, but you really don't know who is on that other line or where they're located."