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.”

Wayne Dahl, Jr. guilty of selling fraudulent magazine subscriptions.

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.