Officials in five states filed lawsuits Tuesday against the alleged perpetrators of a scam that targeted subscribers to The Sacramento Bee and other U.S. newspapers and magazines.
The lawsuits named a group of affiliated companies based in Oregon and New York, as well as several individuals. Subscribers to The Bee and other publications were sent phony renewal notices telling them to send checks to a post office box in White City, Ore., or pay by credit card via a website operated by a company in Thornwood, N.Y.
“This sophisticated mail scam ripped off thousands of Oregonians and others across the country,” said Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, who filed one of the five lawsuits. “Consumers thought they were dealing with legitimate companies and that they were paying the lowest available price. Instead, they sent payments to a dishonest third party, who pocketed the money.”
Rosenblum said in a prepared statement that the scam raked in as much as $40 million nationwide since it surfaced five years ago.
Lawsuits were also filed by the attorneys general of New York, Minnesota, Missouri and Texas. People targeted by the scam subscribed to such publications as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, TV Guide and Time magazine.
The Bee and other papers owned by The McClatchy Co. of Sacramento first began alerting subscribers last fall.
Dan Schaub, McClatchy’s director of audience development, said Tuesday that only a “pretty small” number of McClatchy subscribers fell for the scam.
“Our markets did a pretty good job of communicating,” Schaub said. “Many customers were able to recognize the scam and avoid it.”
Bee subscribers with questions should call (800) 284-3233. Legitimate renewal notices from The Bee direct subscribers to send their payments to P.O. Box 20427, Fresno CA 93779-4027.
Named in the lawsuits were companies including Liberty Publishers Service, Express Publishers Services, Associated Publishers Network and Publishers Payment Processing.
Call The Bee’s Dale Kasler, (916) 321-1066. Follow him on Twitter @dakasler.