Subscription Billing Service: Scam by Mail

This sort of thing arrives quite often, looking very official with all its Control Numbers, three-color printing, good production values, and suchlike:

Subscription Billing Service - front
Subscription Billing Service – front

Generally, Subscription Billing Service offers subscriptions / renewals to magazines I’d never subscribe to. As it turns out, we actually subscribe to Science News and their subscription reminder arrived a few days later, which gave me the opportunity to fish the SBS form out of the recycling bin and compare prices. Turns out that the SBS  “one of the lowest available rates we can offer” deal is just about exactly twice what you’d pay directly to Science News.

Huh. What a surprise.

The Fine Print on the back of the SBS form shows how they get away with this nonsense, at least given an unending supply of new suckers to exploit. You have seven days to “cancel” and you’ll pay $20 for the privilege of not having a middleman double the price:

Subscription Billing Service - back
Subscription Billing Service – back

I do wonder how they can act as an “agent” without having a “direct relationship with the publishers”. Just one of those little mysteries of the universe, somewhat like how dark matter can be everywhere and nowhere at once.

It’s a perfectly legitimate business, I suppose, but that doesn’t mean they’re not scum…

14 thoughts on “Subscription Billing Service: Scam by Mail

  1. And who did they get all your personal data from? What magazine you subscribe to, your address, etc….

    Sounds as if that data came from Science News, one way or the other. Which, to me, would make them just as complicit – and would for me be reason to end the subscription. I’m like that….

    I read your stories about scams like this, and telephone-marketeers, with amazement. I don’t have that problem over here. There are very strict rules here about gathering, storing and disseminating people’s personal data. And breaking those rules & laws *does* carry consequences for companies….

    Looks like a Wild West situation in the US when it comes to what people can do with your personal data.

    1. that data came from Science News, one way or the other

      I think it’s just coincidence, because the SBS scammers also offer to renew many magazines I have never subscribed to. But they certainly know my profile, as the offers tend to be for magazines I might be interested in. That most likely gets their hit rate up enough to make it all worthwhile.

      A pox on their backsides…

      1. Could be a coincidence, but considering that just a few days later the renewal of your Science News subscription came up…. I’d be suspicious.

    2. Was it 1999 when the Circuit Cellar subscribers received a free issue of a heavy music magazine due to some hassle in the printhouse?

      1. Haven’t a clue, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

        They used to travel to the printer in New Hampshire for each monthly press run, because there was no time for phone calls. When your magazine came off the presses, you had minutes to decide whether to run it or scrap it: time, tide, and the presses wait for no man!

        So I can understand how a slip of the wrist at the packaging end of the line would stuff a few thousand magazines in the wrong wrappers…

        1. I don’t recall if it was exactly 1999, but I recall getting that, um, interesting mag, and then Steve Ciarcia profusely apologizing in the next editorial. I had a subscription around that time, in Poland no less.

        2. Circuit Cellar Ink (104) Priority Interrupt: “A Heavy Experience in List Management”

          [Edit: That’s in Issue 110 (Sept 1999), page 104. Ed]

  2. I also was taken in by their scam. I sent in a check to SBS for Foreign Affairs. Shortly after, we received a notice from Foreign Affairs that my husband’s subscription had expired. I called them and they said they had no record of receiving my renewal and that they had no association with SBS. I then called SBS and they agreed to send us a refund, which i would recieve in 4-6 weeks, or possibly by the end of that week. That was in November. I called them today and was told that the check had been authorized and sent. they said they would put a trace on it and call me in a few days. We shall see! I will update you when this is resolved.

    1. I sent in a check

      In retrospect, it’s obvious, but …

      You can probably kiss that money goodbye: they know, full well, that there’s no way you can afford to get it back.

      Back when Foreign Affairs had a circulation of about 5,000, I was a subscriber, too. Scary stuff written by people in the know, for other insiders, if not necessarily insiders on the same team.

  3. To complete my story with SBS: They did not call me back, but I received a check in the mail for the full amount. Strangely, the check was predated to December 20, which was just about within the six weeks they first told me I would received the check. So who knows whether they are legit or not? I persisted and I got results.

    1. received a check in the mail for the full amount

      Wow! Run, do not walk, to the bank and stuff that sucker back in your account!

      So who knows whether they are legit or not?

      I think they’re legit, in that the mailer describes exactly what they do and how they do it.

      That does not mean they’re not scum…

      Congratulations on surviving an encounter with the Dark Side!

  4. Science News actually sent me a note saying that they will not honor any subscriptions that come in from the scam artists. But they do seem to know what magazines I subscribe to. I got a recent notice from them for National Geographic for $59.95. I can renew National Geographic myself for $19.00. Rip off artists that’s for sure.

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