This is what a magazine scammer looks like.
For years, magazine publishers, the FBI and the US Postal Service have been playing whack-a-mole with criminals selling expensive magazine subscriptions to vulnerable people. Publishers who discover scammers are using their magazine titles in these sales through the complaints of duped customers have had a hard time shutting these scammers down, or even finding them to demand they stop.
Looks like the good guys are winning in at least two recent cases.
This is Wayne Dahl, Jr. who plead guilty in Minneapolis Federal Court July 20, 2020. He’s from Fridley, MN and he ran Your Magazine Service, Inc. for almost ten years. He’s 51 years old, and is now a “seasonal dump truck driver” waiting for sentencing in a case that the judge calls “complex.”
He conned at least 13,000 vulnerable people out of $11 million through over-priced and unauthorized magazine sales. He was charged 19 months ago in a case that involved the FBI and US Postal Service. He was sued four years ago by the Minnesota Attorney General.
The case has grown into something described as “a $100 million nationwide mail fraud conspiracy.” Another scammer from Florida, Michael Oelrich, is expected to plead guilty in Minnesota Federal Court for his role. He worked with an unnamed person from Kansas.
According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, “news media reports from around the country also describe a broad crackdown by federal law enforcement on the fraudulent magazine sales industry this year. During a two-day period in February, FBI agents raided multiple magazine sales businesses in southern Missouri and in Florida, seizing documents and computers associated with the companies’ call centers.”
Every publisher who works with subscription agents needs to educate themselves on what these scams look like. Unethical companies use “lead lists” to call subscribers to tell them they can reduce their magazine charges. They end up signing up typically elderly customers for $50 a month for 20 months, claiming they’ll save them money when actually the customer will pay much more.
I’m hoping when the dust shakes off cases like these that will also understand how scammers get the “lead lists.” Somehow, I believe, magazine lists are stolen so the telemarketing can customize the pitch with knowledge of what the prospects are already subscribing to.
I once worked for a publisher that could prove that someone stole information for these “lead lists” from them, and also listened to a call that went to a staff member on the magazine. But the judge in New York said he couldn’t see how the magazine was harmed by the practice and refused to prosecute.
Hats off to all of the work it must have taken to bring these charges and to get these guilty pleas. I’m not sure if the charges will lead to any assets being seized for restitution to the victims, but I hope so.
I am so happy that these companies are being brought down! They have been living like royalty on the elderly hard earned money! I worked for one of them for 3 months and couldn’t believe what was happening! I asked the owner Monica Hanson/Midwest publishers if this is illegal and she laughed and said there is this grey line between legal and illegal and we fall in that area. She said we have ourselves covered so we won’t ever get in trouble! They use to laugh when checks for large amounts would come in the mail. One time a person had paid over $900 on a credit card and mistakingly sent a check too.. she laughed and said deposit it it’s not my fault they paid twice!
I am working on a story about this magazine scam for KARE11. It would be great to have an inside perspective. Would you be willing to speak with me – even on background. I’m at email@example.com
Hi Cindy – I am from KARE11 in Minnesota working on a story about this scam. Would you be willing to speak with me? My email is firstname.lastname@example.org