OVER THE PAST THREE YEARS, we have issued periodic warnings and updates on efforts by lowlifes who have been attempting to defraud subscribers to TEXAS FISH & GAME and other major Texas magazines, including TEXAS PARKS & WILDLIFE and TEXAS MONTHLY. The scheme these crooks have deployed is both simple and simple minded. They send fraudulent subscription renewal notices to a list of addresses—in our case hunting and fishing license holders—in the hope that some will respond, thinking they are legitimate notices from publications to which they subscribe. If someone does respond, the perps simply keep the money and the subscriber does not receive the magazine they think they have ordered.
Most of the subscribers to TF&G who have received these fraudulent notices have been smarter than the toilet floaters sending them. Very few of you have fallen for the con. Most have either ignored the notices, or have contacted us to question their legitimacy.
We have taken care of the few who have fallen prey to the scam and notified us. We’ve honored the subscription term these subscribers paid for, even though we never received the payment. Because we consider ourselves to be the real targets of this fraud, we have had no problem taking the financial hit. Fortunately, the actual damages have been minor, thanks to the aforementioned I.Q. gap between our subscribers and those trying to steal from them (and from us).
The fact that these creeps are engaged in a criminal activity that actually puts more financial risk on them than on their targets shows that we are not dealing with class valedictorians here.
We have no clue where they got the idea that fortunes were to be made siphoning cash from individuals responding to direct mail renewal notices. First of all, to operate this scam, the morons basically have to incur much of the same business expenses they would if they were running a legitimate operation. This means printing hundreds of thousands of order forms, carrier and reply envelopes, and then paying the postage to mail them to the individuals on their list (which they had to obtain somehow—and the more illicit the list source was, the more expensive it would have been). Our guess is they are spending in the neighborhood of $400 per thousand items mailed—most of it in postage. Direct Mail campaigns are dicey even for highly skilled marketing experts. One to two percent is the normal response rate for a successful direct mail campaign—and that is usually achieved with an elaborate package of glossy, full-color brochures, enticing extras, and postage-paid reply envelopes. These clowns use a simple form, with little or no selling verbiage, and a reply envelope that requires a stamp.
In most cases, the fraudulent notices use higher prices than normal for a one-year subscription, such as $48 (where we normally only charge $24.95). But even at that exorbitant markup, if they get one percent return—and keep in mind, the higher the price, the lower the response potential—they stand to receive $480 for every thousand notices mailed—after spending $400 just to get in the game.
If they were able to get better than one percent on such a flimsy marketing effort, heck, we’d want to hire them to run our marketing campaigns legitimately! But it’s doubtful they are getting anywhere near that high of a response, which means they can’t be making much, if anything, more than what it is costing them to run their scam. Aren’t there a lot of other, easier, ways to make a dishonest buck?
Which might explain why different operators seem to keep popping up to try this scam.
The latest is an outfit going by the name Publisher Payment Services. This one, for the first time, is operating out of Austin, Texas. Most of the others have been in Oregon, Utah and Arizona. Being in Texas, it was easier for us to sic the authorities on this new gang of nitwits, and the Texas Attorney General’s office and U.S. Postal Inspectors are already on the case.
If you have received any of these fraudulent notices, whether from the Austin bunch or any other source that does not look (or smell) legit, let us know. Just call our Fraud Hotline, 1-281-869-5511.
Unfortunately, when we do shut this latest operation down, another slime bucket, too lazy—and too stupid—to make an honest living, will pop up somewhere else and start the scam all over again.