We've seen plenty of disgusting corporate behavior in our country – but surely there's an unfathomably-hot part of hell being reserved for the participants in a recent telemarketing scheme to steal the life savings of old folks.
We’ve seen plenty of disgusting corporate behavior in our country – but surely there’s an unfathomably-hot part of hell being reserved for the participants in a recent telemarketing scheme to steal the life savings of old folks.
This is not a scam run by small-time hucksters, but by supposedly legitimate businesses, including database giant infoUSA and Wachovia, our country’s fourth-largest bank. It’s also a scam that’s abetted by an outrageous national banking rule.
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InfoUSA is a list broker that sells dossiers on millions of old folks to telemarketing companies, charging eight-and-a-half cents per name. According to the Federal Trade Commission, infoUSA advertises its lists under such enticing titles as “suffering seniors” (those with Alzheimer’s or cancer) and “astroluck” (people who enter sweepstakes contests). One list assured buyers: “These people are gullible.”
Among those buying the lists were criminal companies posing as social security or insurance workers to call up old folks and talk them into revealing their bank account numbers. Then, under that outrageous banking rule I mentioned, they can create unsigned checks and drain the victims’ accounts! They target the old and sick because such people are often confused or afraid to question bank statements.
The scam only works if the criminals can find a bank to keep cashing unsigned checks. The FTC says Wachovia is such a bank, having accepted $142 million worth of these unauthorized withdrawals, collecting millions of dollars in check-cashing fees.
Were Wachovia and infoUSA duped, too, taking money without realizing they were dealing with scam artists? Hardly. FTC investigators say that executives of both corporations were warned numerous times that they were involved with ongoing crimes – yet they did nothing… except keep taking their share of the money.
Even hell might not accept these greedheaded creeps!
“Bilking the Elderly, With a Corporate Assist,” New York Times, May 20, 2007, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/20/business/20tele.html?th=emc=th&pagewanted=print