A couple of months ago, I received an email offer from American Express to get a free subscription to a magazine of my choice. I don’t read much beside geeky, sciency stuff so I decided to broaden my horizons and chose “GQ Magazine” in hopes of gaining some insight into how to properly adorn oneself . I was smart enough to check that the mail actually came from American Express but I was dumb enough to accept the offer.
If you are familiar the skeptical nature of my articles, you already know where this is going. Yes, I got scammed. I recently received a scary letter from a company called “North Shore Agency.” Their website says, “For three decades, North Shore Agency (NSA) has set the standard in successful outsourced billing services and collection programs that get results for clients, including many Fortune 100 companies.” I say, “Bull Pucky!”
A quick search of the Google revealed that I’m not alone in calling bull pucky on them. It appears they do perform some legitimate collections services but their sideline appears to be scamming people like me. They have somehow gained access to databases containing names of people who have received “free” magazine subscriptions as well as people who are up for renewal. I suspect they have inside help from magazine clearing houses.
The scam begins when NSA sends an official-looking “collection notice” to either pay up or face the consequences. Some people report they received notices of a “past due” account with FedEx but most complaints are from from magazine subscribers. It may even be possible that NSA is legitimate, but the magazine publishers send NSA the names of people who request “free” magazines and try to get them to pay. But the evidence suggests that NSA is the real culprit.
There have been a number of class action lawsuites going back as far as 1998 according to my research. They story is the same. One law firm’s website says, “Jesse Ray, an attorney with James, Hoyer, Newcomer & Smiljanich, P.A., a Tampa firm that frequently represents victims of corporate fraud, stated: ‘We have received hundreds of complaints from consumers around the country regarding North Shore Agency’s collection practices. It appears North Shore Agency’s collection letters are an effort to coerce consumers into paying for magazine subscriptions they do not want. The lawsuit alleges North Shore Agency, Inc. is sending collection letters to consumers who do not owe this money. Further, these collection letters fail to notify customers how to challenge the validity of the debt as required by law.’”
The kicker is the small print on the back side of their letter that says that if they don’t hear back from you within 30 days “in writing” they will assume the debt is valid and pester you again. So, I’ve filed a complaint with the Alabama Attorney General’s office. They have a nifty on-line complaint form located at www.ago.state.al.us/. Take that, NSA!
Jim Fisher owns Excel Computer Services in Madison. You can reach him at 325-7001
By Jim Fisher