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Beware of magazine subscription scams

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It was the perfect sales pitch.  The promise: renew your magazine subscriptions and a portion of the money would go to a charity.

"We were outside doing grass work on a day like today, and a young man came up to us and asked about selling magazines to us, that he was using it for school, for college and would I be interested? I said, 'Yeah sure,'" explained Karen, a scam victim who doesn't want to reveal her last name.

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Karen decided to renew her current magazines about to expire, and gave the young salesman a check for $300.

"I had no indication that this was a scam," she admitted.

Four months later, Karen got renewal notices from the magazines she thought she had just paid for. She tried to reach out to "Fresh Start Opportunities," the company the salesman said he was representing, but did not get a response. That's when Karen realized she had been scam

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med.

"For as long as I've done this, I've never had a problem, so I was really very surprised and shocked," she said.

Authorities say the young people selling these magazines were pawns in a scam run by Samuel Cole and Lorraine Buchanan. The duo promised the young employees a portion of their sales and drove them around the country to sell. Part of their pitch included the promise that a percentage of all orders went to charity and helping people down on their luck.

"They falsely claimed that a portion of the magazine subscription would go to a

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variety of charities to include troops in Iraq, Children's hospital, various cancer charities so it was very enticing for people to buy these magazine subscriptions," explained U.S. Postal Inspector Tammy Mayle.

There were thousands of victims scattered nationwide, with millions of dollars in losses.

"Do your research all the time," warned News4Jax Crime and Safety Analyst Gil Smith.

He says don't assume someone knocking at your door or calling you on the phone is telling

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the truth.

"If someone comes to your door or contacts you by phone offering to renew a subscription, get all the information from them that you can and than contact the magazine yourself to makes sure this particular organization is working with the magazine. If they don't recognize them, no matter what that person comes back and says, do not sign up with them," Smith warned.

Smith adds, if you can't do your research right away, and you don't recognize the company or the person, don't hand over a a check or money. Tell them you'll pay them later. If they try to pressure you, Smith says that's another red flag not to give them money.

Meantime, according to the Department of Justice, both Cole and Buchanan

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pleaded guilty to their involvement in the magazine subscription scam. The DOJ says the extensive investigation into this scam involved reviewing checks from more than 30 checking accounts used during the scheme. Victims were identified through these checking accounts. The USPS says Cole was sentenced to 7 years behind bars and Buchanan was sentenced to 5 years.