Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Bilking the Elderly, With Corporate Assistance

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.”

“I loved getting those calls,” Mr. Guthrie said in an interview. “Since my wife passed away, I don’t have many people to talk with. I didn’t even know they were stealing from me until everything was gone.”

Telemarketing fraud, once limited to small-time thieves, has become a global criminal enterprise preying upon millions of elderly and other Americans every year, authorities say. Vast databases of names and personal information, sold to thieves by large publicly traded companies, have put almost anyone within reach of fraudulent telemarketers. And major banks have made it possible for criminals to dip into victims’ accounts without their authorization, according to court records.

Elders everywhere seem to be getting very little protection from the system they contributed to all their lives, when an elder starts to get infirm, and his mind starts to fail it's a race to see who can get to his/her assets first.

Family members often get first shot at them and if they fail or fall sleep on the job then professionals step in with corporate assist, then the attorneys and the courts follow once a guardian is named by the courts, regardless of what that person set out in his Will and Testament, or what other arrangements that person made, the courts take over and the 'Ward' then has less rights than a convicted criminal and becomes legally a non person.

Clara was diagnosed with dementia and started being aggressively treated for Alzheimer's in 2004 by summer of 2004 she was scurried away, put in isolation, drugged and made to sign new Power of Attorney, Quit Claim Deeds and her accounts were closed and liquidated.

"When did this become acceptable behavior in the United States of America? How can it be that a widow with the foresight to prepare a will to govern in these exact circumstances can have her wishes overruled without ever being heard or considered while the funds and permission necessary to clear her name are placed in someone else's hands?" Albert Simon

Your help is needed to persuade legislators to do something about this problem. Please share this information with family members, friends, neighbors, legislators, and other acquaintances.

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