Last night, while wading through my mail (junk mail; junk mail; credit card offer for my four-year-old, so she can Uber instead of take the bus; junk mail), I noticed a letter saying I needed to pay about $1100 to renew my daily NY Times print subscription—and I have to send $549.98 by November 15th. I had two thoughts: "That is insanely expensive" and "Um, I am set up with auto pay."

Currently, a daily print subscription to the Times is offered, with a 50% discount at $6.65/week (or $345.80 for 52 weeks) for NYC addresses. And even if you doubled it, it'd be less than $700. This morning, the Times sent an email:

AN IMPORTANT MESSAGE TO NEW YORK TIMES SUBSCRIBERS ABOUT DECEPTIVE “RENEWAL NOTICES”

Some subscribers to The Times and other publications have been receiving unauthorized “renewal notices.”

These deceptive notices have been sent by independent solicitation companies without The New York Times’s approval. This is an industry-wide problem, not isolated to The Times. We are working with state and federal authorities to stop this activity.

The companies operate under a long list of names, including: Associated Publishers Network (APN) • Associated Publishers Services (APS) • Circulation Billing Services (CBS) • Customer Access Services (CAS) • Magazine Payment Services (MPS) • Publishers Distribution Services (PDS) • Readers Payment Service (RPS) and many others.

These unauthorized solicitation notices generally instruct customers to send payments to an address in Oregon or Nevada.

We do not send renewal notices to our customers since Times subscriptions automatically renew. If we do not charge your subscription to your credit card, any invoice you receive from us will have this address: P.O. Box 371456, Pittsburgh, Pa. 15250-7456. The invoice will ask you to make your check payable directly to The New York Times.*

If you receive a subscription renewal notice that does not appear to be from The Times or from an authorized agent you are familiar with, do not respond to it.

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Image of a fake invoice from the NY Times

This issue does not represent any kind of New York Times security breach. All of your subscriber information, such as name and address, remains safe with us.

We appreciate your help in watching out for such dishonest practices.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding this matter, please feel free to call us at 1-800-NYTIMES (1-800-698-4637) or send an email to subscriberrelations@nytimes.com.

The Nation, The Wall Street Journal, The LA Times, The Star Tribune, and The Charlotte Observer are among many publications whose subscribers have been targeted by this scam. Last week, the Better Business Bureau put out an alert:

You check the "bill" and the price seems higher than in the past. In this example, scammers are over-charging for the Cincinnati Enquirer and asking for a year's payment upfront, when the newspaper typically bills month to month. In Denver, scammers are charging four times more for the Denver Post than the real rate.

Even if you do pay up, don't expect to see your subscription renewed. It's likely scammers will just pocket your money.

The practice is also known as "rogue billing," and the Arizona Republic published a more recent look at the scam network:

A labyrinth of corporations tied to a remote post office box in southern Oregon is behind a nationwide newspaper renewal scheme that solicits bogus subscriptions to readers.

The companies, operating under a tangle of seemingly interchangeable names and murky corporate ownership, have been the center of lawsuits and consumer fraud allegations involving magazine subscriptions for more than a decade.

A Call 12 for Action investigation found 44 companies, all with names that include the words "publishers," "readers," "magazine," "billing," "services," "payment" and "circulation," that are owned by a 37-year-old Oregon woman who once managed a construction company.

Laura Lovrien of Eagle Point is president of a company called Liberty Publishers Service, which in turn owns 40 companies. In August, 2011, the 40 companies were transferred to Liberty on the same day from a lawyer in New York. Lovrien also runs three other companies.

Liberty Publishers Services owns the domain name for the processing center used to collect payments from newspaper and magazine customers who are led to believe they are renewing legitimate subscriptions.

The ownership details help shed light on a mysterious campaign that hit newspaper subscribers this week in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Missouri, New York, Ohio and Texas.

Records show the renewal scheme has been around since at least 2001 and companies involved have aggressively defended their right to solicit subscriptions, going so far as to sue publishers who alerted customers. Lawyers for the companies have denied in lawsuits that the solicitations are deceptive.

So, this is like the Nigerian prince scam for lovers of print journalism! Beware, you dying breed.