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Whether your passion is current events or computers, cars or cooking, cruising or country life, there’s a magazine tailored for you.
But before you subscribe, take time to consider whether a magazine offer presented to you is legitimate. It might not be.
Magazine sales for years have been infiltrated by crooks and con artists, court cases show. State and federal officials warn that criminals use lies and strong-arm sales tactics to rip people off, and it’s often older Americans who pay the price.
Exhibit A: Russell “Rusty” Rahm, 53, a Kansas businessman and boat racing enthusiast from suburban Kansas City who is awaiting sentencing in federal court for his leading role in a magazine fraud ring that ran for 20 years, until 2020. (As AARP reported then, he and others were indicted in a large-scale crackdown on fraudulent magazine sales.)
Rahm and his various magazine-sales companies are alleged to have collected over $103 million using telephone sales pitches rife with lies and misrepresentations. Some consumers were billed by up to 10 of the fraudulent companies at a time. He pleaded guilty in December and, under sentencing guidelines, could land in federal prison for 24 to 30 years. He also has been ordered to pay $103 million in restitution.
Cases from coast to coast
The case is not unique. Magazine sales scams “are as old as the hills,” says Lois Greisman, associate director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, an agency that has gone to court to shut down violators.
Between 2020 and 2022, the agency took 21,384 complaints about fraud involving magazines and books. (Its annual data combines those into one category.)
Authorities are trying to crack down on deceptive subscription sales practices in general. The FTC has just proposed a rule that would make it easier to cancel your unwanted subscriptions (even legitimate companies can make it ridiculously difficult to do so), and impose stiff penalties on sellers that don’t make adequate disclosures about the consumer’s obligations when subscribing.
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