At least two dozen people in the Charlotte area have reported receiving phony bills from a company purporting to represent The Charlotte Observer, and the newspaper is warning people to be cautious.
Newspapers across the country, including the Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, Arizona Republic and The (Raleigh) News & Observer have reported similar scams. The Better Business Bureau this week issued a “scam alert” about the notices.
Reports of the scam surfaced in Charlotte earlier this fall. Typical of the fake bills is a notice marked “Renewal Offer,” which was sent to a person in Charlotte from the Publishers Billing Association. That company has a post office box in White City, Ore., that has also been used by companies called Circulation Billing Services, Publishers Billing Exchange and Publishers Payments Processing.
The Arizona Republic reported this week that 44 companies, all with names that include the words “publishers,” “readers,” “magazine,” “billing,” “services,” “payment” and “circulation,” have been at the center of subscription-fraud allegations for more than a decade.
Legitimate bills from the Observer include the newspaper’s Old English logo and bear a return address of P.O. Box 3027, Livonia, Mich.
Bill Bollinger, senior audience development manager for the Observer, said there is no indication that the scammers gained access to customer data.
“There is no evidence that our customer databases were accessed or that customer information has been compromised,” he said.
Jim Puryear, regional vice president of audience development for McClatchy, which owns the Observer, said the company has reported the problem to the U.S. Postal Service and the U.S. attorney’s office.
If you received one of the notices or a bill you have questions about, call 1-800-532-5350.