Dear Wesleyan,

Normally I write about Star Wars, or make lists about absurd things, or write happy (or, I guess, bitter) posts about European soccer. Not today. This is an open letter to Wesleyan University in particular, and everyone more broadly, about how I was (stupidly) scammed by a “magazine company,” what I did wrong, and the steps I’m taking to combat the company’s immoral, illegal practices. If you want to save yourself a lot of emotional effort, money and time, read on.

In November of 2008 I was being treated for a broken ankle: I was on serious pain medication, lying in bed trying to do work. My phone rang, and seeing that it was a number that I didn’t know, I picked it up. I listened patiently to the woman on the other end who had told me that I would probably “win a car” if I gave he my credit card information and signed up to receive some (very cheap) magazines. Sounded good to me–perhaps this idiocy was due to the pain meds (I hope). Mistake 1: NEVER GIVE YOUR CREDIT CARD INFORMATION OVER THE PHONE UNLESS YOU INITIATED THE CONVERSATION.

I was roped into a “binding” (or at least I was told) contract with a magazine distribution company called the “National Readers’ Service” (NRS); after I realized what I had done, I repeatedly tried to cancel my account. I was informed again and again that the NRS “pays the magazine companies in advance, so you can’t cancel your account.” I was mortified; I couldn’t tell anyone, any of my friends because they would laugh at me (for good reason). I was being charged upwards of $60 a month, though I had initially agreed to much lower charges; I couldn’t afford to pay my bills, so I began to default. Then I began receiving angry calls from the NRS; finally, in November of 2009, I agreed to “settle” my contract. I paid an exorbitant amount to the NRS for an extended period so that the harassing calls, the inflammatory mail, and the recorded messages would stop. They did not.

I only received more calls, despite the fact that my phone number is on the Do-Not-Call registry. I repeatedly asked them why they were calling, only to hear that I still had $1400 on my account, but they would “settle” with me for $1200. I stopped answering.

Today, I received a letter from a debt collection agency. My “account” has been transferred from the NRS to the debt collection agency, and the only way I can get it back to the NRS (to pay more money) to settle it, is if I pay the debt agency $300.

So I’m drawing the line. This has to be illegal, right? Well, it is, and here’s my letter to the NRS, the CT Attorney General, the Kansas Attorney General (they’re based there), the debt collection agency, the Better Business Bureau, and the Consumer Protection Agency that outlines my claims and my case:

National Readers’ Service
PO Box 3863
Shawnee Mission, Kansas
United States
Phone: 1-800-304-8567

To Whom It May Concern:

Last year, while I was on substantial pain medication for a broken ankle, I agreed to a telemarketer’s offer for magazines at a substantial discount; I made various payments to the group called the “National Readers Service” starting in November of 2008, and continuously made payments even when the magazines did not come–they withdrew money from my account despite my repeated attempts to cancel my account. I recall that in November of 2009 I had a conversation with an agent, who referred to himself as a member of the NRS, about buying out my contract. I agreed to pay $XXXX for three months to cancel the account; I can produce my bank statements in court to prove that this money was withdrawn from my account. The first withdrawal occurred on December 9, 2009, the second on January 11, 2010, and the final one on February 9, 2010. All of these are marked under the label “CHECKCARD 0208 MAGAZINES 8003048567 8003048567 KS 24559300039900010248537,” (bolds mine) with the merchant category as “Mail Order/Telephone Order Providers.”

Since this time, I have repeatedly received harassing, twice-daily phone calls from NRS agents, mail informing me that I owe $1400, and have now been transferred to a debt collection agency, who refuse to transfer me back to the NRS unless I pay a fee (I recollect, because they refused to let me record our conversation) of around $300. They offered me a “one-time” settlement fee of $1200. I refused.

I am writing this to the NRS and NRS affiliates as set out in State of Kansas v. Publishers Renewal Service CO. d/b/a National Readers Service a/k/a Readers Source (case ’09 CV11613, suit filed Dec. 30, 2009) to insist that my account be removed from your system. Unless my account is removed within two weeks and the harassing phone calls are stopped, I will send a copy of this message to the Connecticut division of the Better Business Bureau, the Connecticut Attorney General’s Office, the Kansas division of the BBB, the Kansas Attorney General’s Office, and the Consumer Protection Agencies based in Kansas and Connecticut. I also run a website that collects over 6000 unique hits a day from college students around the country, and will publish a detailed account of this scam there.

According to the lawsuit I previously mentioned, “39. Upon information and belief, if a consumer agrees to purchase a magazine subscription, defendants tell consumers they must cancel within three (3) days of the initial transaction; 40. Upon information and belief, consumers may actually cancel their subscriptions at any time; 41. Upon information and belief, Defendants fail to inform consumers that they may cancel their subscriptions at any time.” According to this suit, I have the right to cancel my subscription at any time, despite having been repeatedly told that I could not; also, according to this suit, the “collection agency” I was referred to has earned over $60,000 from cases like mine. According to this suit, the NRS is liable for “Deceptive Acts or Practices,” in accord with K.S.A. 50-626(b)(3) which prohibits the NRS from “willfully conceal(ing), suppress(ing) or omit(ting) a material fact in their transactions with consumers, specifically that consumers could cancel their order at any time.” (State of Kansas v. Publishers Renewal Service CO, Count II, section 58-59).

The NRS is especially liable for “Unconscionable Acts or Practices,” (K.S.A 50-627(a))–according to Count V, “[Defendants] continue to attempt to collect payment from consumers, even after consumers express a desire to cancel their subscriptions or cease making payments on their accounts, often referring such accounts to independent collection agencies.”

What the NRS has done to me over the course of the last year is not only amoral in a vague sense: it is illegal, in violation of the Kansas Consumer Protection Act (pursuant to K.S.A. 50-632(a)(1)), which prohibits deceptive and unconscionable acts.

If my account is not removed from the NRS, from the collection agency my account is now being held in, and from both electronic systems more generally; and if either of these two agencies call my telephone number ever again (which is on the National Do-Not-Call registry); I will take legal action against the NRS, the collection agency, and the NRS CEO Russell J. Rahm personally.

I hope this can be resolved without resorting to legal action.

Thank you,

Gabriel Wofford Lezra

Wesleyan University

45 Wyllys Ave

Middletown, CT


So what can we learn from my idiocy?

  1. Never give out your credit card number over the phone unless you initiated the conversation.
  2. Do not trust any service that will not tell you who they are, what they do, and where they are based. (I had to do extensive research to find all of this out about the NRS).
  3. Insist that anyone who calls you tell you who they are, what they want, and why they are calling.
  4. Remember that under most state constitutions (and, I believe, under national law) you have the right to (a) cancel your subscriptions at any time; (b) protect yourself from companies that are “unwilling” to give you information; and (c) protect yourself from companies that engage in “unconscionable acts or practices.” Bring this up, and especially State of Kansas v. Publishers Renewal Service CO, if you’re ever in my situation.

So anyways, all of this being said, just don’t pick up the phone for 1-800 numbers. It will save you a lot of fucking time, and a LOT of fucking money.

About Gabe Lezra

The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides with the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who in the name of charity and good will shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon those with great vengeance and with furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know that my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee. Ezekiel 25-17.
  • LaVona Ford

    Thanks for posting this. I was able to bring up the ks v publishers clearing house court case and fax the national readers of America a letter and a copy of this case and my account was immediately canceled. No more phone calls. Thank you so much. you are a life saver.

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  • Ñorma polloçk

    I-have been also been scammed by this organization. I certainly never have never ordered $39.80 a month màgazines. I am 86 yrs old and getting teenagers màgazines in my mailbox. Unfortunately I did not check my acct for over a year to find this out. I could not reach them by phone and had no address so I froze paymen5 on my acct. They keep sending me more and keep harassing me by phone. What can I do to stop the madness? I have advised them I will report to report to better business or Sue them in small claims court but they keep sending them. Is there any other option. I know the numbers they are calling from now so just push the answer button and hang up immediately.

  • Linda

    I literally just hung up with Reader’s Service Dept to “close my account”. The caller had information about me that I don’t recall ever giving any company and said that I agreed to pay $84 “last year” and again this year but that my this year’s payment wasn’t honored by my bank. I tried to tell him that I have NEVER received any bills from any Reader’s Service but agreed to pay the final amount to have them STOP calling me. He would not confirm the company name except to say he was “Reader’s Service”. They call constantly and all say the same line about getting your magazines on time and they will lower your payment but then they turn around and add more years on your subscriptions. I will NEVER purchase another magazine unless it’s from a reputable company, i.e. the publisher of that magazine. After agreeing to the payment and hanging up, I went over my checking account and discovered that the amount I was quoted was never taken out of my account last year so I guess I was scammed AGAIN. I too will be contacting the Better Business Bureau and Attorney General’s office to report this scam of a company!

  • Pauline M

    Thanks for an excellent article. Sad to say that 4 years later it is still relevant. I plan to use the info when I call them today to yet again cancel subscriptions. They have been “selling” magazines to my 90 year old mother for years. I call and cancel explaining that my mother has alzheimers and macro-degeneration. She can’t even read the print on the magazines. I threatened them with the Texas Attorney General and sometimes they do refund the money. We have canceled the credit card numerous times but they just call again. I know I should take away the credit card, but why does she have to give up her freedom to go out to lunch, etc. because of predators? I try to block the calls but they apparently have a multitude of phone numbers. How can I get them to stop calling? How can I take action? They call about every three months. They are not the only predators that are bleeding my parents, there is a travel group that regularly sells her trips. At 90 years old, my parents aren’t gong on a Carnival cruise. Anyone have any idea who can help us?

  • libasse

    Hey I need your help because that’s how they ruined and I’m still paying monthly. How could I possibly sue them or make them stop ripping me off?

  • Joann

    Well as I read all of these post I am pretty convinced that the phone call I received tonight is a scam. I was told they were updating my information so they could continue to send me magazines. I never ordered any magazines! They said they were getting ready to bill me for 79.90 a month for these mags. I was like I didn’t order magazines and they told me I agreed to a trial period for 12.95 and that if I did not want them I could of cancelled in the aloud time period.. I said How did I join this club??? They said it came with a credit card I received. I told them the only card I have is from my bank. They asked if it was Visa or Master and I told them. Damn! Anyway they told me my contract with them would end in 2017! And they would cut my payment to 59.95 for 20 payments instead of the 79.90 for 30 payment. I told them I did not want any of there product and when was this activaed? hjey said it could of been anywhere from 6 months to 2 years ago?? WHAT???? Are u friggin kiddin me? I asked to know when the first payment was taken from my account? THEN they said they were getting ready to bill me soon.. I said good then I have time to contact my lawyer and let him deal with this. I will just need your name and and supervisor’s name. They hung up on me and never called back. Iam going to my bank tomorrow to see what can be done just in case. I did not give them any card info. They did know my first name. but they asked my income and where i worked and my age. I hope that was just fluff to warm me up to the scam. So thank you for sharing and posting this. I will spread the word to family and friends and hopefully they will catch these people and squash them!

  • Yup, I got roped into this crap too and they have called me a couple times today. After I realized what I got myself into, I closed my account so that they couldnt take anynore than the initial 50 or 60 bucks they took right away….

  • Jim♣

    United benefit advantage sent me a postcard saying I had won 250.00 in free merchandise at walmart or best buy. I called, and was asked if I wanted any magazines. I don’t read magazines so I said no. They said that was ok and directed me to a different department, which sounded suspiciously like the same person I had talked to earlier. They said they needed 10.95 for shipping and handling. I said OK, but when they asked for a credit card number I said hang on and looked them up on Thirty five complaints! I told them to forget it. I agree, a bad idea to give your card number to anyone over the phone in any case whatsoever.

  • Bethany

    I am currently being scammed by NRS. I’ve paid them a total of $500 for magazines that I don’t want or need. Does this law also apply in the state of TN?

  • anonymous

    i just got off the phone with these ppl not too long ago,. i cancelled the magazines from being sent to my house last month, and the lady cancelled. or so i thought. then today, i saw that money was taken from my account from them. i called to find out why inm still getting books if i cancelled a month ago, and this different person this time, as i was telling her the issue, it got silent for about a minutee or w, then the line cut off. i called back and got someone else and told them, and they said they just cancelled my account. how can you just cancell my account when someone a month prior supposedly closed it? plus i just got disconnected from the person before that one. not to mention, i’m still getting books. anlso, every person who answers is a female. so if my account was cancelled a month before, why am i still getting books? and i just got money taken from my account today after having just put money in it today. i have things to handle, and it’s tough getting done with this crap going on. i hope this gets handled soon. thanks for this post. now i know i’m not the only one.

  • M

    All you have to say is you will report them to the better business bureau, they will put a supervisor on the phone, and then cancel your account!

  • Limestone Fire 11

    OMG, I just received a phone call from Interstate Recovery Service, and they are trying to collect a debt from this NRS. Said they called and I signed up back in 2003, and that I made 10 payments, and that the payments ended, and they are trying to collect the remainder of the account. Then the guy says, “While double checking your name, I found a second account that these people had roped you into.” I know I am not the smartest person in this world, but how the hell did I end up having two accounts with this same company. UGH stay away from these scam artist idiots.

  • Lucas Saltz

    Not sure if you really check this anymore, but I almost got roped into this when i was really busy packing and moving the other day. I wasn’t paying attention and already gave them my current address, when they said I couldn’t cancel my already current subscription and tried to “verify” my cc info, I made up an excuse to get off the phone.

    Do you think they’ll start hounding me and sending me stuff int he mail?

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  • what if i cant find the people i subscribed too. i called and the phone number was disconected. all i have to go on is Visa Purchase (Non-pin) Readerssvc800269800-2694179 Fl

  • Christine

    I am stuck in this scam right now after signing up for magazines through US Air or Uniteds Rewards Programs. They are trusted programs that I thougt I was getting a general subscription for, having no idea that I was getting into a huge mess. Thank you for posting your letter and information on NRS that I have been unable to get from them. I am using your letter to try and stop this before it becomes a bigger mess and starts to hit my credit cards. You are an angel!

  • Jessica

    This happened to me too in June 2010. I was pregnant and very bored. And a day later I realized my mistake so I called to cancell and got the same bs about not being able to but gladly they did. I didn’t get harassed till June 2011 and more recent. And naturally I forgot I cancelled and being busy with a new baby I wasn’t paying much attention to anything but that. Within the past few months I’ve been wondering why the hell am I always. Rome halfway threw the month I went back and looked at old. Ann statements. I was pissed off at what I found. I called the company immediately and a few times more demanding invoice records the recordings and when my account was opened then I found out I had 2!!!!! I was being charged 39.90 for one and 49.90 for the other !!! I was pissed so I talked with the supervisor and threatened legal action for the unauthorized account that I made 2 payments on and the other one for being charged for when it was cancelled and being opened a new one. A day later I had been credited 2 payments of 39.90 from national magazines. I’m just waiting to see if that is taken out of my account. I’m so angry I am wondering if you can offer advice and help with my situation.

  • mom

    My son (military active duty) recd phone calls and harrasing letters(to our address) with , the EXACT SAME AMOUNT you mentioned above and the”settlement” since “you are in the military” was, guess what 300.00!!!! He had changed credit card numbers, never remembered signing up for anything knowingly, was not even stateside at the time the alleged purchase was transacted. He called me, upset, then we came up with a plan before we contacted his superior officers for help. He called THEM and asked for all names ,titles, and details so his CO could contact them for the “legal department of the military”….needless to say, he recd a call in less than 3 minutes declaring the debt wiped out and a confirmation number to verify such. AMAZING that your dollar amounts matched and I wonder how many kids his age(college age) have been preyed upon by these sorry individuals. I collect for my business and there are stiff laws and regulations limiting tactics,. If he had made the purchase, he should pay, but he didnt and I hope this stops someone else from making that mistake. thank you for posting!!

  • Janedoe123

    Fuck nrs

  • Hottie_melissag

    That company is a scam and is tied in with subco inc. trust me its all a scam, I workes for them they are a crucked company amd send maginesout without costumers approval they also auto renew with no permission from.the consumer..they actually over charge for theor magazines…goin directly thru the publisher is npt expensive at all…the president of the company kellthemvuckovich or u can say vuckobitch shes the worst one…they portray thmpany emselves as a

  • Anonymous

    Just got off the phone with the billing department for NRS (they called me). Same thing happen to me, offered a 4 year subscription for 5 mags of my choice for a 2 year charge of a little less than $60/month. Well after about 3 years later I noticed that i was still getting charged. Well at this time I could not remember who the publication company was so I could cancel the account. I just canceled the credit card that I was getting charged on.
    They started calling me about the payments less than a month ago telling me I had only one more payment left, yeah right. The billing department said they are sending my account to credit collectors.

  • Mrsfigueroa05

    This same thing happened to me except I did not authorize any type of services with them. Stupid me I didn’t even realize someone withdrew 39.90 from my bank account on may 7th until today(5/30) I called these people and they claim they talked to me and have a recorded conversation with me authorizing them to do this 39.90 withdrawl monthly for the next two years for 4 years of service. I called my bank and they had to cancel my debit card, which puts me in another bind seeing as I very frequently use my debit card and seeing as my payday is this friday and i receive direct deposit. I know it seems weird for me not to notice a 39.90 withdrawl from my account until weeks later but seeing as i had almost every bill due around that same time i really didn’t think twice about being broke. This company will now not take my phone call, at any time i call i’m sent to an automated message telling me to call back within buisness hours. my bank is now investigating fraud on my account. DONT THESE PEOPLE UNDERSTAND THAT MONEY IS HARD TO COME BY THESE DAYS AND WE ALL HAVE FAMILIES TO SUPPORT AND BILLS TO PAY. i hope this scam ends although i know there are many more out there. Please also look out for a money order scam, my father keeps receiving money orders for extreme amounts in the mail and although they are tempting to cash please know that it is also a scam and if you do cash them not only will your accounts be violated and basically robbed you will also be in trouble for fraudulent transactions.