Search This Blog

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Senior citizens are being inundated with worthless and malicious junk mail – DMA doing little or nothing

The Direct Marketing Assn., which is the advocate for its member junk mailers, and supposedly the consumer public that buys through this medium, has dropped the ball completely when it comes to a focus on senior citizens’ problems with junk mail. They apparently leave this up to AARP, the FTC and the FBI’s Victims Assistance Program.

From 35 years as a junk mail data broker, I doubt seriously if the DMA has the clout over their membership to solve the problem. I know they have no control whatsoever over the thousands of scam artists using junk mail, the telephone, or the Internet.

Case in point is the Texas gentleman who had to be rescued by his daughter from a mountain of junk mail. In the Fort Worth Star Telegram, she described her 87-year-old father’s situation as “being buried alive.” He couldn’t even eat at his breakfast table, she remarked. There was an avalanche of junk mail, the majority unopened, and he had received 56 more pieces that day, 110 the past Monday.

It consisted of charitable appeals, credit card solicitations, political mail, catalogs, junk mail scams and more. The junk mail lined the walls of his rooms, blocked the backdoor and the hallway, clearly a safety hazard that could cause the man to fall, or if there was a fire. Once the daughter discovered the gas stove covered with mail.

So you get the idea, and here is the rub. Much of this junk mail could be from reputable companies, but enough of it is pure fraud that could clean the 87-year-old out of all his financial assets, including his house. How do I know that, because many legitimate data brokers maintain what the junk mail industry describes as the “gullibles.” These are mailing lists of individuals who are vulnerable…like senior citizens.

The father sends about $2,500 each year to charities, so this man had to have been on several of the “gullible” lists. Yes, scam artist do represent themselves as worthy organizations. Now, when you compound that with each charity to which he contributed selling his name between 25 and 50 times each year, you can begin to see how he became inundated.

With an average donation of $25.00, that means he started out on 100 lists. Multiply that by a minimum 25 times they each would have sold his name and he would have received 2,500 pieces of junk mail. It could be 5,000. And if he replies to any of the latter, the cycle starts all over again. And I doubt it’s certain he only contributed $2,500 annually.

These horror stories come primarily from senior citizens, but can include those who are just plain suckers. They all need to be protected, although some modicum of self- restraint is called for. Maybe the DMA is not the answer. Maybe a federal do-not-mail list is what we need. With the success the FTC has had with the Do-Not-Call Registry, it is a concept that is ripe for consideration.

You can see earlier articles on this subject here and here.

Please visit my writing at

No comments: