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Wednesday, May 30, 2007


P.T. Barnum, the circus mogul, said it: “There’s a sucker born every minute.” He died in 1891, and could not have envisioned how this trait would blossom and be exploited in future generations. Last week in my “Junk Mailers Make It Easy to Bilk the Elderly” post, I refuted a statement by a junk mail company spokesman that “they,” the industry, does not characterize some of its customers as gullible. From my experience as a list broker, one particular category of lists, “Opportunity Seekers,” was referred to, even promoted, as “the gullibles.” An InfoUSA list subsidiary, Walter Karl, was reported in a New York Times article as the seller of names of scores of elderly Americans to “known lawbreakers.” The Iowa Attorney General hauled Walter Karl in to explain its actions, and parent InfoUSA says in a recent press release that the meetings with the AG were ultimately to their “apparent” satisfaction, and that we (Walter Karl) “appear” to have cooperated. According to government investigators, major banks have made it possible for the crooks to access victims’ accounts, citing Wachovia Bank, along with InfoUSA, as continuing to work with the bad guys even after being warned they were “aiding continuing crimes.” Folks, there are still unsuspecting people out there that think private business always deals honestly with its customers. And even others are so busy that they overlook the danger signals that often end up as problems. We all need to be protected against what has become the international movement to abuse the public’s sensitive data. This can only be accomplished by giving consumers control over their names and private information.

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