TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Bilking the Elderly, With a Corporate Assist

Bilking the Elderly, With a Corporate Assist

Monty Solomon (
Fri, 25 May 2007 22:53:00 -0400

The New York Times
May 20, 2007

The thieves operated from small offices in Toronto and hangar-size
rooms in India. Every night, working from lists of names and phone
numbers, they called World War II veterans, retired schoolteachers and
thousands of other elderly Americans and posed as government and
insurance workers updating their files.

Then, the criminals emptied their victims' bank accounts.

Richard Guthrie, a 92-year-old Army veteran, was one of those
victims. He ended up on scam artists' lists because his name, like
millions of others, was sold by large companies to telemarketing
criminals, who then turned to major banks to steal his life's savings.

Mr. Guthrie, who lives in Iowa, had entered a few sweepstakes that
caused his name to appear in a database advertised by infoUSA, one of
the largest compilers of consumer information. InfoUSA sold his name,
and data on scores of other elderly Americans, to known lawbreakers,
regulators say.

InfoUSA advertised lists of "Elderly Opportunity Seekers," 3.3 million
older people "looking for ways to make money," and "Suffering
Seniors," 4.7 million people with cancer or Alzheimer's disease.
"Oldies but Goodies" contained 500,000 gamblers over 55 years old, for
8.5 cents apiece. One list said: "These people are gullible. They want
to believe that their luck can change."

As Mr. Guthrie sat home alone -- surrounded by his Purple Heart medal,
photos of eight children and mementos of a wife who was buried nine
years earlier -- the telephone rang day and night. After criminals
tricked him into revealing his banking information, they went to
Wachovia, the nation's fourth-largest bank, and raided his account,
according to banking records.

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