Company targets News & Observer subscribers with deceptive letters

A company has targeted subscribers to The News & Observer with deceptive demands for payment for a supposed renewal.

As of Wednesday evening, six subscribers had told the newspaper that they had received the letters, according to Wendy Reeves, director of audience development for the newspaper.

The documents are labeled “renewal notices,” and in at least one case demanded $569.95 for a year’s subscription to “The News Observer” – far above the paper’s normal rate.

In fact, the letter claims it comes from an “independent subscription agent” that will file the subscription with the proper publishers, or possibly “switch your order to other magazines” with the option of a refund.

The letters direct would-be subscribers to the website of United Publishers Exchange, and carries the billing of the Associated Publishers Network. The letter asks payments be sent to Nevada.

The Associated Publishers Network, based in Henderson, Nev., and United Publishers Exchange, in Medford, Ore., both have earned “F” grades from the Better Business Bureau.

It is unclear whether people who aren’t subscribers to the newspaper have received the letters. It also isn’t clear whether the letter’s senders have access to a list of subscribers’ addresses; the newspaper’s parent company, The McClatchy Company, found no initial evidence that addresses had been stolen, Reeves said.

The newspaper’s management was discussing the issue with its legal counsel and is filing a complaint with the U.S. Postal Service and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.