Many magazine companies use sweepstakes to advertise their publications. They give away attractive prizes to encourage people to visit their sites. Then, when potential readers enter the giveaway, they receive an offer to get a free issue of a magazine or to buy a subscription at a deeply-discounted rate.
These offers are great if you want to buy the magazine. However, if you're not paying close attention, you could end up subscribing to a magazine that you don't want to receive, and owing money you didn't intend to spend.
Hearst Magazines is known for having sweepstakes forms that made it difficult to enter without ending up with a free trial or a subscription. Unsubscribing from those unwanted subscriptions can be tricky.
If you have this problem, don't worry. You don't need to be stuck with a subscription you don't want if you act quickly.
Magazine Sweepstakes and Subscriptions Laws
Magazine sweepstakes must offer a non-purchase method of entry to conform to U.S. sweepstakes law. Companies cannot legally require you to buy a magazine or anything else in order to enter a randomly-drawn giveaway.
Hearst Magazine giveaways do offer a non-purchase method of entry. However, if you are intent on entering a giveaway and don't double-check your entry form, you could easily make a mistake and subscribe unintentionally.
How You Might Accidentally Subscribe
Some magazine sweepstakes pages have a separate link you need to click to access the non-purchase entry method. Others have a checkbox to subscribe that's pre-checked when you fill out the entry form. You need to uncheck it if you don't want to receive the magazine.
While you should pay careful attention that you're not agreeing to anything you don't want anytime you enter a giveaway, you should take extra care when entering magazine sweepstakes. Over the years, some sweepstakes fans have complained that they believe they have used the non-purchase entry method and have still been subscribed to Hearst Magazines.
Sweepstakes fans have reported being subscribed to a Hearst Magazine publication, despite actively selecting the subscription-free entry option.
How to Find Out if You've Been Subscribed to a Magazine
While you don't need to avoid magazine sweepstakes altogether, you can take steps to make sure you aren't going to receive a subscription you don't want.
One of these is to check your sweepstakes email shortly after entering and in days afterward to see if you receive a subscription confirmation. If you receive one, you can quickly take action to unsubscribe.
You can also check Hearst's customer service pages to see which magazines you're subscribed to. If you see any unwanted changes, you can take action.
What to Do If You Receive an Unwanted Magazine Subscription
If you receive a notice that you have signed up for a magazine subscription you don't want, visit the website for that magazine and look for the Customer Service link.
To find the customer service pages you need, check the full list of Hearst Magazine websites, which offers links to the customer service page for each magazine. You can use those links to unsubscribe.
If you receive a magazine you don't want in the mail, there should be contact information in the magazine itself that you can use to opt ou. You can also cross out your address, write "Cancel" and "Return to Sender", and drop the magazine back in the mailbox.
Important: Don't Ignore Unwanted Magazine Subscriptions
It's important that you don't simply ignore these magazines. Even if the magazine company doesn't have your credit card information to charge you, you should still respond to an unwanted magazine.
Although the FTC website explains you don't have to pay for materials that you did not order, if the magazine believes you agreed to receive the magazines, they can try to collect the subscription fee from you. For example, they can send unpaid bills to a collection agency, which could harm your credit rating.
While this article has tips specifically for Hearst Magazine sweepstakes, be very careful about subscriptions when you enter any sweepstakes. Although entering sweepstakes faster can help you win more often, you don't want to be so quick that you don't take time to double-check your entry form.
Now, be sure to check out these things you should know before entering magazine sweepstakes.