By Karen Anderson, WBZ-TV

BOSTON (CBS) – There’s nothing worse than paying for something and getting nothing in return. That’s exactly what a lot of magazine subscribers say is happening to them, however.

Michele Hill of Harwich enjoys sitting down with her magazine for a break. When it appeared it was time to renew it, she quickly wrote the check.

But Michele hadn’t received a bill from the magazine. Instead she got a very real looking invoice from a third party billing service called Publisher’s Billing Exchange. She got worried when her magazine didn’t show up in the mail.

“I am like, this is isn’t good. I just gave them all this money and now what am I going to do?” she asked.

Readers around the country are complaining about these authentic looking bills.

Paula Flemming of the Better Business Bureau examined several of these bills for us and agreed they looked legitimate. They’ve received hundreds of complaints about these services.

“It is deceiving to the person who is providing the payment,” explained Flemming. “In the end, they never receive the magazine.”

The Better Business Bureau has given these third party subscribers, which can also go by National Magazine Services, Orbital Publishing, and Publishers Billing Center, an “F” for their business practices.

Flemming added, “Not only do we have unanswered complaints, we have issues with patterns of complaints.

When Michele tried to settle her dispute, she couldn’t even get a working phone line. “It was out of order, and I was like uh-oh. I thought maybe I misdialed, so I did it again, and I am like, uh-oh, out of order.”

The I-Team wanted to see if we could have better luck, either getting a magazine or settling a dispute.

We renewed a subscription to Entertainment Weekly and sent a check as outlined on the invoice. The check was cashed but the magazine never arrived.

We tried calling various numbers for customer service a number of times. Either lines were disconnected, or we were put on terminal hold. When we finally got thru to a person, we were promised a call back with some answers. That never happened.

“The issue is about crooks who are stealing money from magazine subscribers and magazines,” said Kiplinger’s Executive Editor Kevin McCormally.

Kiplinger’s has warned readers to avoid these solicitations and make sure they pay the magazine directly

“We don’t know where they get the lists. We don’t know how they know that you are a subscriber of ours, and that your subscription might be coming up for renewal,” said McCormally.

“It costs us money when this happens to us. It can be devastating to an industry in peril anyway. The last thing we can do is have money leak out the door,” added McCormally.


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