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Wednesday, May 23, 2007


The New York Times has done an excellent piece on how the junk mail industry makes it easy for the scam artists to steal from our senior population. Charles Duhigg’s article tells of the sale of a list by InfoUSA, a large compiler of names with several list broker subsidiaries, to “known lawbreakers,” according to regulators. A 92-year-old man from Iowa by the name of Richard Guthrie was the victim, and his family says he lost over $100,000. InfoUSA lists included such titles as, 3.3 million “Elderly Opportunity Seekers;” and “Suffering Seniors,” 4.7 million people with cancer or Alzheimer’s disease. One of the list descriptions even stated: “These people are gullible. They want to believe that their luck can change.” That’s like telling the crooks to come take their money. But rather than taking responsibility for the incident, InfoUSA has maintained through two junk mail publications, Direct and DMNews, they don’t characterize these people as “gullible.” To which I say, bull----! In the 35 years I spent selling names and personal data, opportunity seeker lists were constantly touted as “the gullibles.” They worked on junk mail offers from “How to make a million,” to auto insurance. It seems like this profile has a tendency to be a more determined junk mail buyer than other groups. Unfortunately, Richard Guthrie was lonesome—his wife had died nine years earlier—and he welcomed the supposed friendship of the telemarketers that stole his money. He even remarked after it was all over that he really enjoyed the calls. More on this next week, including Wachovia Bank’s part in the incident, and a look at the over nine-hundred “Opportunity Seeker” lists on the market.

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