infoUSA Marketed Lists Of "Gullible" Seniors To Known Scammers, Wachvoia Processed The Unsigned Checks

Global rings of crooks are stealing the bank accounts of thousands of the elderly, using lists of names and phone numbers sold to them by corporate America, NYT reports.

Pretending to be updating their Social Security and insurance records, the criminals tricked the retirees into giving up the information needed to drain their money dry.

The lists were sold to them by infoUSA, one of the biggest aggregators and resellers of consumer information, with packaged lists that practically put out the shingle for scammers. Internal emails reveal that infoUSA execs were aware that some of these clients had been prosecuted for or were under investigation for telemarketing scams.

The banking data was then used to create unsigned checks to withdraw the money. Wachovia accepted $142 million of these checks, while failing to screen firms, respond to thousands of complaints, or react when 50-60% of the checks bounced. Five other banks were involved, too, but Wachovia was the largest.

The worst part is that many of those bilked were just lonely and appreciated someone to talk to. And the thieves were happy to listen.

Make sure to warn older family members and neighbors about the dangers of giving away personal information, especially bank account and social security numbers, over the phone. Or try actually talking to them so they don’t join a sweepstakes just to have a chance with interacting with another human being. — BEN POPKEN

Bilking the Elderly, With a Corporate Assist [NYT]


Edit Your Comment

  1. mac-phisto says:

    i don’t believe in capital punishment, but if there was ever a time to use it, i think this would qualify.

  2. djanes1 says:

    You know, maybe infoUSA bought this list of sketchy mail marketers ‘gullible enough to pay up to 7 cents a name’ from a larger, shadowier mail marketing company…

  3. slapstick says:

    People who prey on the elderly are among the lowest life on the planet. This is so disgusting I can’t even see straight.

  4. Ben Popken says:

    @djanes1: No, they compiled it from a variety of sources and then sliced the data down based on people’s purchase decisions.

  5. bokononist says:

    I think it’s time to get the ‘executive customer service’ going for infoUSA. They wouldn’t reply to the NY Times , so maybe they’ll reply to a flood of Consumerist readers.

    The fact that they actually put the word ‘gullible’ next to names is a fact meriting the swift jailing of everyone in the company.

  6. How many circles of hell did Dante have? Can we add one more for these people?

  7. bokononist says:

    Ooh, they have a live help link on their site. I’m going to see if I can get them to talk. So far I haven’t been able to.

    Also infoUSA has some phone numbers to call: 800.321.0869

  8. bokononist says:

    Ahh here’s an even better one: Vin Gupta, CEO, has a charity. From the website:

    “All of the above projects are non-profit.
    Vinod Gupta personally absorbs any shortfalls in support.
    For more information contact

    I think we ought to ask Vin how charitable those gullible lists are.

  9. bokononist says:

    Here’s a better link to CEO Vin Gupta’s charitable foundation, containing his email address

  10. quagmire0 says:

    Nah, capital punishment is too easy. I would sentence them to a minimum 5 years volunteering at a retirement home. :)

  11. GitEmSteveDave says:

    Gupta? I think I have heard commercials by him on the radio in the NJ/NY area. Anyone else heard these? I know that in the commercials he’s selling customer lists, and even offers free ones.

  12. orlong says:

    Why are old people so stupid that they always fall for scams. The lived longer than everyone on the planet and are supposed to be wise old owls, yet they fall for scams that anyone with half a brain can see from a mile away.

  13. bokononist says:

    Orlong, it’s called Alzheimer’s. You should get banned for this comment.

  14. bokononist says:

    Perhaps banned from consuming more oxygen too. How awful.

  15. wymanator says:

    I still don’t understand why banks permit a third party to withdraw funds from your bank account without your permission.

    A similar thing happened to my 85-year-old mother when two different local utilities withdrew funds from her Citibank account. The withdrawals had nothing to do with her utility accounts (she wasn’t even a customer of one of them.) Apparently, some nefarious individual got hold of her account number and gave it to the utilities thinking my Mom would never notice. Fortunately, she did. Unfortunately, she had to go through a lot of aggravation with Citibank to get her money back.

    Why don’t we petition congress to make unauthorized withdrawals illegal?

  16. ShadowFalls says:

    Though the older you are the wiser you should be, the elderly also tend to be more likely prone to medical conditions such as Alzheimer’s or others that make them take medications which can cloud their judgment.

    This behavior of preying on these people is something that is unforgivable in my opinion, almost any jury and/or judge will crush these people when convicted.

  17. Sunburnt says:

    The sort of person who profits from this evil deserves a retirement plan that involves fellating the diseased for spare change. Vin Gupta: what a hypocritical prick.

  18. bmcgann says:

    “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.”

    That is the saddest quote I’ve read in a long time. This whole story just disgusts me…

  19. Recury says:

    “Make sure to warn older family members…” Yeah, or like, talk to them enough that they aren’t so lonely that they will buy condos or vinyl siding from people who take two minutes to have a conversation with them.

  20. Nytmare says:

    Glengarry Glen Ross gave a hint at this kind of operation — you express interest in a land promotion or time share by filling out a form, then behind the scenes you get put on a list which is sold and resold and re-resold. You’re hounded by opportunists until your personal info falls off the lists, which is probably never.

  21. sseas says:

    Notice Vin Gupta’s charitable foundation’s links to the Clintons. I sent an email to the Senator inquiring as to her connection to Gupta.

  22. The banking data was then used to create unsigned checks to withdraw the money. Wachovia accepted $142 million of these checks, while failing to screen firms, respond to thousands of complaints, or react when 50-60% of the checks bounced. Five other banks were involved, too, but Wachovia was the largest.

    Why is it that I have to hand over my driver’s license number, multiple phone numbers, address, etc. if I write a check but these banks are cashing checks without so much as a freaking signature?!?!

    I’m treated like a criminal if I have to use the last resort of writing a check but the scammers are treated as though they are beyond reproach. “Oh, we don’t need a signature from you Mr. Con Artist. We know you around here.”

  23. bmcgann says:

    Bill Clinton appears at Gupta’s annual conference every year. I think it is an excellent idea to contact Hilary’s office to see if she would offer any kind of response.

  24. Skylar says:

    Jesus Christ, that’s terrible. Even the name is sinister and evil. “Suffering Seniors”?

    Seriously, does this Vin Gupta guy’s charitable hobbies include tying women to railroad tracks and twirling his handlebar mustache?

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