Magazine Sales Scams

Be wary of telemarketers that say you’ve won a valuable prize or gift but have to subscribe to magazines in order to collect your winnings.

One of the most common telemarketing schemes involves selling people expensive magazine subscriptions by convincing them they’ve won something. In some cases it’s a well-known and highly publicized sweepstakes. In others it’s a free gift or a valuable prize. Telemarketers know they can count on the fact that so many magazine promotions are so heavily advertised that it’s easy to convince the person on the other end of the phone that they’ve hit the jackpot.

How Telemarketing Magazine Scams Work

Telemarketers have many variations of this scam but what usually happens is this: someone calls you and says that you’ve won a fabulous prize. The prize could be money, a trip, a car, or something else. Whatever it is, you’ll be thrilled to have won it. It won’t be long until the caller mentions that in order to collect your prize you must subscribe to several magazines. The subscriptions vary in price. It depends on how much the telemarketer thinks they can get out of you. Some subscription packages cost only few hundred dollars while others cost as much as several thousand dollars. Either way, the telemarketer won’t even let you know which magazines are in the package. But who cares about details like that when you’re going to collect a prize far more valuable than magazine subscriptions.

Once you’ve sent in your money you won’t receive a prize. Nor will you receive the magazines you thought you subscribed to. What you will get is a list of magazines with instructions to check off which ones you want, then mail it to a return address. By now you’re probably wondering if you’ll ever see your prize. You won’t. There is no prize. You haven’t won anything, but you have subscribed to a bunch of magazines.

Telemarketers using this tactic claim they’re no different than the magazine promotions you see advertised on TV. We beg to differ. There are three big difference between these telemarketing magazine subscription scams and legitimate magazine promotions:

  1. Prices are disclosed in advance. When legitimate companies mail consumers marketing materials, they usually include the newsstand prices, discount prices, and the savings to be made before purchases are made. Less reputable companies, on the other hand, usually fail to disclose both newsstand prices and the prices they’re charging consumers for each magazine issue. It’s no mystery why they hide the prices. Few consumers would pay for them since they’re often charging more than the newsstand price. Some telemarketers even try to sell magazines that are free.
  2. Magazine titles are disclosed in advance. Legitimate magazine promotion businesses let you know which magazines you can subscribe to before you send in your cash. Dishonest telemarketers won’t because if you realized that the most popular magazines, the ones you would want, aren’t on their list of available magazine titles. Would you ever purchase magazines without knowing which ones you were paying for?
  3. Magazines are delivered to consumers as promised. Honest companies send you everything you’ve ordered and paid for. If you bought a year’s subscription, then you get 12 issues. Dishonest telemarketers don’t have time for such foolishness. A common ploy is to try and get you to allow them to donate your subscriptions to hospitals, libraries, or the poor. Many scammy telemarkers won’t send you any of the magazines you subscribed to. Others will send you a year’s worth of magazines, even if you paid for two, and pocket the difference.


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