United Publishers Network Sending Phony Subscription Invoices

July 23, 2014

BBB is warning consumers and businesses to be on the lookout for phony subscription renewal invoices bearing the name United Publishers Network (UPN). BBB serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington has processed 863 complaints against United Publishers Network in the last 3 years, including 6 that the company failed to respond to and 14 that remain unresolved. United Publishers Network has an F rating with BBB. 

 BBB has noted a pattern of complaints from consumers regarding improper billing and collection practices. Consumers have complained about receiving phony invoices that imply that their business publication subscriptions are up for renewal when they are not. Consumers have also complained that the company charges a $20 processing fee to cancel renewals. A full copy of UPN’s BBB Business Review including complaint information and aliases used by the company, can be read at bbb.org.

Randy Hutchinson, BBB serving the Mid-South president, received the phony invoice for Business Week, a publication he subscribes to from his home address. The UPN renewal notice was sent to Hutchinson at the BBB’s address – a red flag that it might be bogus. “The back of the invoice states that this is a magazine subscription offer, not a bill or invoice. However, most folks will look at the ‘Notice of Renewal’ verbiage on the front and assume it’s a legitimate renewal notice for a publication they currently subscribe to.”

 Many of the invoices landing in Memphis area mailboxes appear to be coming from Memphis Business Journal(MBJ). According to MBJ publisher Joanna Crangle, United Publishers Network has recently conducted mailings in our area that appear to be “Notice of Renewal” offers from MBJ and has recently started telephoning subscribers for their renewal orders. The fake MBJ invoices claim to have the lowest available rates; however, the rates are actually significantly more.

 "UPN is not authorized to represent the Memphis Business Journal," Crangle told BBB. "We did not approve the use of, or access to, our subscriber list for any purpose and the prices they are quoting are significantly higher than our rates."

Crangle told BBB that legitimate renewal notices and subscription offers will always display an official MBJ logo and will direct payments to their customer service center in Charlotte, NC. The phony invoices carry the name of United Publishers Network in the top left corner and direct payments to a PO Box in White City, OR.

 Better Business Bureau offers the following tips to avoid problems with phony invoices and renewal notices:

  • Be on the lookout for solicitations disguised as bills. Fake invoices sometimes state “This is not a bill.”
  • Carefully review all bills and invoices from companies, especially those that are unfamiliar.
  • Keep a list of regularly used vendors.
  • Establish effective internal controls for the payment of invoices.
  • Verify all invoices with the person who gave purchase authorization.
  • Check the BBB Business Review on any business that has contacted you before signing anything or giving out any payment information.
  • Use a credit card, which allows you to dispute charges if the item was misrepresented at the time of sale.