Art of the con II: A second round with my father’s postal oppressors

Recall, if you will, the battle I’ve been waging against the solicitors who deluge my father’s mailbox. My pop, who has slight dementia, falls for conservative causes who write with desperate pleas for money. (“The ACLU is targeting Christians!“; “Barack, show us your birth certificate!“; “The Illegal Immigrant Superhighway is paving the way to a North American Union!“) He has donated just enough to have his name and address smeared around the scamosphere. His mailbox is clogged with like-minded PACs, religious extremists, fearmongers, race-baiters, money-grubbers and other shameless grifters.

In that last post, I reported how my sibs and I responded to all of August’s solicitors by hand, mailing more than 250 responses in all. At the time, I printed and stapled this message inside every return-reply envelope:

“My father has dementia, and would gladly give away the last of his savings to anyone who asked. PLEASE remove him from your mailing list at once and leave him in peace. Since most solicitors send repeated mailings, I’ve noted your address and will be watching.”

Firm but polite. Insistent, whipped up with honey and only a hint of vinegar. On the whole, perfectly reasonable. How did it work? Well, let’s take a look at the first two days of November:

The stack weighed 11 pounds. I repeat: TWO DAYS; ELEVEN POUNDS.

After two weeks, I cut off the mail gathering and replied to everything we had received so far in November. It resulted in 200 responses. TWO HUNDRED RESPONSES.

So this time, I intensified the message we stapled inside:

DECEASED

Please remove [my dad’s name & address] from your mailing lists.

We are keeping track of solicitors and will escalate our complaints unless his name is removed promptly. PLEASE STOP SENDING MAIL. Thank you.

That’s right, I said he was dead. Yeah, I went there. Also note the distinct lack of words like “you jackals” or “bastard blood-suckers.” As with the last round, I noted the names and addresses of each solicitor, marking each of their multiple offenses. Here’s the red label we slapped on the outside:

This is at least the second notice we have sent your organization.

Please remove [my dad] from your mailing list. We WILL contact your Postmaster with a fraud alert if you do not cease.

Ooh! Strong arm! Here’s the thing: In just two weeks’ worth of mail, you would not believe how many of these solicitors sent multiple requests for money. Who has the wontons to be so rude? Here’s who — this list represents any group that sent two or more mailings in that two-week window:

* American Conservative Union (7 mailings in two weeks!)
* American Federation of Senior Citizens (8 mailings! Our winner!)
* Benefit Security Coalition (5 mailings!)
* Christian Voice
* Citizen Outreach
* Citizens United for American Sovereignty
* Conservative Caucus
* Freedom America (5 mailings!)
* Freedom’s Defense Fund
* Liberty Counsel
* Malcolm Wallop (for Frontiers of Freedom)
* Minuteman Project (6 mailings!)
* National Committee Against the U.N. Takeover
* National Council for Survivors
* National Senior Action Council (6 mailings!And I just discovered this group is a subset of the American Federation of Senior Citizens; see above for their staggering contribution to my father’s mailbox!)
* Nevada Republican Party (Why is a Nevada group looking for money in Illinois? Because villifying Harry Reid is so much fun.)
* Political Headquarters 2009
* Renewing American Leadership (Newt Gingrich)
* Safe Borders Coaltion
* State Department Watch
* The 60 Plus Association
* U.S. Border Security Council
* William Russell for Congress (This time, a Pennsylvanian seeking funds in Illinois. I guess John Murtha is a hot-button figure. For somebody.)

While I suspect that many of these groups are fronts, scams, drop-boxes and frauds, it’s possible that some of them truly exist, and truly employ hard-working, well-meaning patriots who only want the best for America. If you know anybody at any of these operations, please share with them my most heartfelt middle finger. I really need them to quit asking my father for money.

By the way, the list above doesn’t even take into account the scads of sweepstakes announcements and prize-claiming notices and “guaranteed share of 10 million dollars” letters my father receives, because I just assume those are postmarked from the Fourth Circle of Dante’s Inferno, and there’s no point trying to appeal to their decency. Perhaps I should pick up a course in Conversational Abyssal at a local community college on the chance I could catch the ear of these cloven-hoofed devils.

If the mail relents even one iota, I’ll report it here. Don’t hold your breath.

34 Comments

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34 responses to “Art of the con II: A second round with my father’s postal oppressors

  1. Anneke

    You know, I wonder how much those mailing cost? Bulk mail is a bargain, but there is some printing cost. If you just send back the postage return envelope with a couple pennies in it (or better yet, a big fat stack of folded newspaper so they have to pay the extra postage) can you at least get some satisfaction from costing them money? Is there anything else heavy and possibly offensive you could send them in return? Rocks? Glitter ( I hate glitter – it might jam up their keyboards)? Baggies of clean cat litter?

    How completely angering!

    • jdrewscott

      Muahaha! Glitter in envelopes! I hate that sh*t! Hahahahaha.

      My brother’s wife had a doozy of an idea as well: Making a “remove from mailing list” request in the exact same size and shape as a check. It would not fail to get their full attention — for at least the couple of seconds it took them to realize it was a false alarm.

      Still … glitter! Ha!

  2. Anneke

    Oh, and for what it is worth – I promise to never give any money to those organizations!

  3. Carol

    Absolutely appalling. Keep fighting the good fight.

  4. Jennibelle

    Another suggestion on answering the mail – how about writing on the envelope – ” Deceased – return to sender”! Think the post office would HAVE to return it!

    • Melissa

      I wouldn’t suggest doing that. The post office would most likely flag legitimate mail. It could end up as a huge mess.

  5. j a higginbotham

    I’m sorry to hear about your dad. We are going through the same thing now except all of us live out of state.
    My dad does not listen to reason (he has never listened to any family member at all).
    Any advice as to what we can try?

    thanks
    jah

    • jdrewscott

      Having Power of Attorney has been a boon. If your father doesn’t realize the benefits of giving his children that power, emphasize the benefits of his not having to deal with the burden. I tell my dad that if there’s a cause he *really* wants to support, I’ll write them a check. (And if it’s one of these skeevy fraud groups he selects, I choose an equivalent — or round down to the lowest common denominator: the RNC.)

      Good luck!

  6. RymRytr

    I too have been fighting these people for over 3 years. My Mom has given away thousands, in both Cash, Checks and Credit Cards. Last year, I took over her finances as she progressed into Dementia. At first, I would gather her mail to send for her on my way to work. of course, I didn’t mail it. Now, we are down to just 5 of the 123 who still write and we still get calls from Jamaica trying to tell her that she has won a Check and Mercedes and if she will pay the fees, they will deliver. I answer all calls and play mind games with these guys. As for “Return To Sender”, the post office people tell me that they do NOT return Non-Profit Mail. They just throw it into a Bin. I started whiting out the Non-Profit and putting full postage on. Most of the legit outfits have stopped. It’s Cliff Kincaid and his National Committee Against the U N Takeover (and his others) that will not stop. I’ve even filed a complaint with the Atty General in WA DC but they can’t make him quit either.

    I see your last post on this was 2009. How is it going now?

  7. Helen

    My companion is in the same situation as all of your comments so far. Its just ditto ditto ditto. If there are any more suggestions or ideas that have worked in getting rid of all these scams (I feel at least 85% of the mail he gets are scams (tons of prize winning scams too), I would be most appreciative to hear from you. Helen 5/27/11 PS – its been going on for over a year now.

  8. Janis Lee

    My entire summer project (I’m a schoolteacher) has been to get my mom off these mailing lists. If it has the word “Christian” or “conservative” or “pro-life”, “pro-Israel” she has donated to it. Now she is faced, at age 94, with paying for her own private care so she can stay in her own home as long as she can. I have gotten her to agree to donate to only 5 legitimate charities (NOT political junk), and she lets me get her mail for her. I spend about 2 hours a day online asking these people to stop. The legitimate Christian charities reply and say they will. Have not heard from a single one of the political scammers. I do go through the envelopes and send a request in the pre-paid envelopes. At the end of June, I’ll just be throwing it all away, as I can’t keep this up. The post office will not “return to sender”. These people will have to answer to God!

  9. Ellyn

    Oh, thank you for making me laugh when the disgust with these unscrupulous groups (or are they just two people who have purchased a P.O. box in Virginia?) was overwhelming! I’ve been battling this for 2-3 years, and have come to the realization that there’s no combatting it. My favorite is the organization that sends the envelopes with – I kid you not – the Grim Reaper holding a “Death Tax Due” sign. What will these organizations that take advantage of seniors and of the fabulously discounted bulk mailing rates do if and when the US Postal Service reduces service or ends up completely privatized? If services are reduced a day (and I am not wishing ill on her fine mail carrier), at least the senior in my life will have a Saturday free of reading how the USA is going to h*** in a handbag if he doesn’t donate $26.43 by the arbitrary deadline.

    • Cathy C

      I wait to get 2-3 of the same ones and send them all back in one envelope with a nasty note and request to take my dad off the mailing list. I send several different ones to the same address (Yes there are about 4 that go to one PO box) all in the same envelope. Probably doesn’t do anything but make me feel good!

  10. Gail

    While reading these posts, I am almost in tears. FINALLY someone understands what I have been going through with my mother. Her checking statement is sitting in front of me and I’m staring at $725 of NSF fees due to all the checks she has written to these blood-sucking, fraudulent organizations asking for her money. The way they write the letters with urgency and playing on their fear and patiotism and yet telling them how awful the world is and requesting money. I have tried to convince my mom of the deceit and fraud and have finally realized that it does no good and I’m not going to convince her of anything. While looking at her checking account online I noticed that she has written two more checks despite the fact that I have her checkbook. She must have found an other book of checks! ARGH! The last two were written to “National Health Congress” and to “National Senior Action Council”. Can’t really find any info on either online. Thanks for the listing earlier in this blog. I also have a yellow legal sheet full of names of businesses. I have also spent time replying to mail to remove her name and sending mail back. Someone told me that despite writing “REFUSED – RETURN TO SENDER” , the P.O. just tosses those also. I appreciated the post about getting Power of Attorney because that is our next step or getting a P.O. Box and having mail go there so my brothers and I can get it first and give her what she needs. I have been dragging my feet to do that but now reading all these other posts, I am thinking this is our best action. The whole situation makes me so angry and my mom has been pretty politically savvy so now it difficult to accept that she is being brainwashed by all this mail and most likely it is dementia. A friend had mentioned writing “deceased” on the mail and returning it and I might do that also. You’re so right that it takes up SO MUCH TIME to deal with these greedy, deceitful bastards and that makes me angry also. Reading these posts help to at least know that someone else knows what we are dealing with! I will return…

  11. A Good Son

    One of the things I did, during my 5 year campaign, was to make sure that I got all my Mom’s outgoing mail. Luckily, I live with her and so I would say “Do you have any mail to be mailed today? I can drop them off, on my way to work.”

    Then, I would open them and remove the donations. As I said, it has taken 5 years of letter writing, but we are down to 5 or 6 per week, from the original 10 to 15 per day!

    Some orginazations don’t mail their own letters. You can hire a company to mass mail for you. You prepare your letter, send it to them and they run it through their duplication mail machines. They get their addresses from mailing lists that you and I can buy, on line, for so many cents per address.

    It is more expensive for them to remove the name from the mailing list than it is to continue to mail and when they sell the list to someone else, they don’t care if your name is there or not.

    Persistence will pay off with the legitimate businesses… as for the others, such as Cliff Kincaid, who has many “non Profit” programs, he will not acknowledge my filings with the WA DC Attorney General or complaints to the BBB.

    Do what you can by managing the Parent’s Finances without making them feel badly. :o)

  12. Don Arbogast

    I am going through this process for a good friend now. It is helpful to know what you have been through and how you have dealt with it. Complicating matters for me is that she refuses to give me any of her mail, although she complains bitterly about being inundated with it. A mutual friend managed to spirit away some of it, so I hope to reduce it by a fraction, if possible.

  13. Mary

    My father in law recently passed away and 15 years ago my mother in law suffered an anurism and it left her not as sharp as she used to be. In the years since her anurism, she had become preyed upon by every type of solicitation imaginable. My father in law did his best to keep her from sending money and writing checks, but now that he is gone, it is up to me. We had always noticed to huge pile of mail on the table and on chairs, but figured he was taking care of it. Wrong. SInce he has passed away, which was in October of this year, she had received at least 130 different mailings

    and multiple mailing from many. I along with my husband and his brother have been sneaking it away and throwing it away. My brother in law stayed for about a month prior to my father in laws death and he would take her mail to the box, but destroyed any checks. He also put the junk mail in the blue box and I would dispose of it. That was in Oct. SInce then, I have been going out to see her as she lives about 45 minutes away from us on a farm, about twice a week and each time, I sneak some away from the table, but it is hard because she watched it like a hawk. I have been able to try and mail a few things for her but not many. Since I am helping her at my father in laws request, I have accress to her bank account and can see where and to whom she makes contributions. It is so sad. She wrote 4 checks to the same organization, two weeks apart for the same amount. It drives me crazy to see the money she is wasting on groups like The National Retirement security task force, AMerican federation of senior citizens, Repulblican National committee and the list goes on. She feels she is helping save the seniors and save our country. All she is doing is line someones pocket. I have talked to her and explained this to her but she says oh no, they are doing good things. I have called, emailed, faxed I don not know how many groups and still they come. Each one I actually talk to says it takes 3-6 weeks or months for them to stop as they mail them out so much in advance and have them ready for mailing. Funny, that it only takes one donation to be put on hundreds of lists and the games begin. You can acutally buy mailing lists on line. She also receives many toll free and name unavailable phone solicitations and she answers them because it is some one to talk to., We have stressed not to answer the phone unless she know who it is, but she still answers anything.

  14. Sylvia Hess

    My siblings and I are now dealing with the same thing. My dad, now 97, believes these letters are for him. He does not notice that they are form letters. He sent off approx. $900 in one month to organizations earlier this
    year. We are completely lost as to how to stop the mail! Has anyone had success? At least his hearing is bad and he no longer takes phone calls.

    • Peggy Fletcher

      Peggy
      may 25, 2012

      I have the same problem with my mother who lives 2000 miles away.
      What I have been considering, since I have power of attorney, is changing her address to mine, and just sending her the mail she needs. The bulk mail
      should not be forwarded unless the sender pays has paid more to get
      the addresses new address, which I don’t see indicated on the envelopes.
      The post office would just throw it away, so I would not be getting it.

  15. Cherie

    What a comfort to learn of similar situations. This has all exploded in the last 12 years – it was not the case when my father died in 2001. Now i have another relative who died this year and the story is exactly the same as all those told here. Isn’t there a REAL senior advocacy group who would take on this cause?

  16. J. Drew's brother

    I guess my brother has finally received some “fame” for this post. Our Father passed away a year ago, one heck of a way to finally stop getting “requests”. I urge you all to keep up the good fight, to call your Congressional Idiots and see what they can do to help stop this raping of our Mothers and Fathers. It’s not a question of money, it’s the fear mongering indecency of disrespect and disdain these money grubbing predators have on our parents at a time when they can least defend themselves. If you find something that works, SHARE! Spread the word! Maybe a wildfire of information and action can defeat these inhuman manipulators.

  17. LDS

    Wow! I just discovered this site and I am not alone. My aging parent began making contributions to these fear mongering, blood sucking vandels last year. After a major stroke this summer there was evidence that my mother had a minor stroke early in 2012 which went unnoticed except that I mistook some of her confusion for natural aging. Only when I took over her accounts with a POA this summer did I realize the extent of her confusion. I spent hours and hours as well as stamps last summer writing the vultures who had taken advantage of her to no avail. The only thing that has resulted in a decrease in the onslaught of pleas for money was a slight change in her address. The Center she now resides in holds her mail for me to pick up and there is a recycling bin near by. The individual who is having her parent’s mail forwarded to her is probably on the right track. I asked the post office for help and they were unable to help. This needs to stop. Unfortunately, I am caught in the middle between my family’s needs and my parent and have little time to pursue this. Perhaps at a later time, I am sure I will be furious for a long time.

  18. Michelle

    Wow – somehow it helps to know that others are going through the same postal oppression hell on a parent’s behalf. My father let me forward his mail to my address, now I am the lucky recipient of a dozen donation requests a day. Worst offenders:
    White House Watch
    Southeastern Legal Foundation
    Cliff Kincaid, National Committee Against the U.N. Takeover
    I could go on, but won’t. When Business Reply envelopes are provided, I stuff all the materials with a formal cease and desist request from me, the legal guardian, and email the others. Of over 40 organizations, 3 have responded. I just hate these people, and wonder how they sleep at night.

  19. JDSTHat

    Same issue as most of you, my mother is 93. She continues to write “crap” checks, but they never seem to clear the bank, so no real cost with the exception of some postage. Besides she feels good reading the materials and making the contributions – kind of a “hobby”.
    Has anyone ever tried to provide their parents with a separate bank account with no money in it, let our loved ones write check out of the account and let the “cause/charity” fight it out with the bank.
    The ideal would be for the check to make it through the organization, bounce back from the bank, with no cost to the account holder (Mom), but force the organization to go through the cost/time or trying to get the check reissued etc.
    Downsides are if the bank tries to charge the account holder (mom) or she gets a bad credit score, but she is 93 and if there are “organizations” she would just as soon not be bothered by . . .

  20. Jim Carpenter

    I do that with my older parents liberal donations. I throw that stuff out and keep it from making its way to planned parenthood and all the pro gay and Democrat groups, just like some up thread have enjoyed intercepting the mail and donations to the conservatives. My Mom was a state senator and Dad was a former union organizer, if they only knew what I was doing, but they’re older and living in assisted living. I do get a secret chuckle knowing the libs who were so inspired by my folks are now getting bupkiss from them.

    • jdrewscott

      Jim, my powers of Internet sarcasm detect that you’re being facetious, but honestly I would like to know what the “lib” equivalent of these ultra-conservative mailings are. Surely they’re out there — predatory things that use trumped-up and made-up accusations to pry money out of people who should be saving their money, not blowing it indiscriminately.

      As you can tell from the many posters here, older people seem particularly susceptible to this kind of marketing. My father certainly was, and he would give without vetting these groups, getting involved in their work or even thinking about them again. It’s a con game. And I want to know if there are left-leaning causes out there using the same false, inflammatory practices to grease their wheels. My gut says there probably are, but that they aren’t nearly as prevalent as the ultra-conservative vitriol still scorching my mailbox a year and a half after my father passed.

  21. I am going through the same thing. My husband isn’t too bad yet, and he has agreed to show me all of this crap for me to say “yes” or “no” to a donation. But before I caught on, he had given away $2600 in a month and a half. We are long retired and on a fixed income. It still makes me want to throw up. He actually now sends almost all of them back saying “take me off your list. I have no money to donate”. That does not work. I sent 75 personal letters saying I would take legal action if they did not quit. He had three in one day yesterday from White House Watch. One that did stop was an individual (former congressman) when I told him he was a charlatan, thief and belonged in jail. I have had two or three others respond and took him off. A surprise was Publishers’s Clearing House. They sent a nice letter and did remove his name. But there are still 10 to 15 a day. Revolting, disgusting, sickening, and depressing. There must be help out there some place????

    Shirley

  22. michelle

    My mom has been scammed for about $10,000 in less than two months. I had to cancel all credit/debit cards, remove all cash out of her bank account (not much left after cleaning up $10,000 of donations on credit cards) and am now having to go seek an attorney to seek power of attorney over her finances so they can’t get to what little cash she still has. This was so awful that I’m still sick about it. I too have tried calling to get her removed from their list and plan to get her mail delivered to a PO box so I can monitor it more closely. Anyone else have any other suggestions?

  23. Pam

    We are going through the same thing with my mom who has dementia early stages alzheimers disease. I have tried letters and postcards requesting removal from mailing lists. Also seeking help through the Attorney General office regarding Benefit Security Coalition. I heard of a new site called Catalog Choice where I opted out of some 16 charities recently. Time will tell if this works to stop the donation requests from the preying bloodsuckers.

  24. merton hart

    I’m having the same problem with my wife. She has a huge heart for the needy, I tell her most of the mail is from the greedy. She says I am wrong. I have discovered the unsolicited phone calls from unrecognized area codes & phone numbers are getting fewer since when they call, I press talk then end without giving them a chance say a word. Makes me feel good!!!

  25. Pam Churchill

    I too am going through this with an elderly parent. It is somewhat comforting to know that I am not alone in dealing with this insidious (legal?) gouging of the elderly. We are warned of scams from various organizations but no one seems to want to take on the onslaught of mail scams from these various organizations. The problem in a lot of cases is that the recipient feels they are writing directly to them and appealing for their help. Any attempt on the caregivers/siblings part to explain that these are scams meant to drain bank accounts and line pockets are met with denial and sometimes hostility.

    I am going to try contacting our local investigative news channel and see if they would be willing to work on this problem. I know that it will be an uphill battle for them but I would like to think that they will try.

    Good luck and God bless to everyone.

  26. LA Mort

    It saddens and sickens me to see how many of us are fighting this problem. My mother is now in the mid-stages of Alzheimer’s and living in a group care home. Thankfully only her family and the care home know she is there. For years prior though, she was a victim like so many others here. She used to brag about how much mail she got (sometimes 50 pieces A DAY!) because she thought these people writing her were her friends. She was lonely and alone too much, and the mail was her friend.

    As many of you have noted, asking these groups to cease and desist does not work. I too sent back junk mail in their reply envelopes without success. I’m here though to give you some hope and to tell you I was, ultimately, able to stop the hounds. First I submitted a change of address notice to the Post Office: moved, no forwarding address. Next I contacted only the people that needed access to her (which really was only her bank, doctor, attorney, and family), and instructed them to use my address (Mom, c/o me, etc.) for essential mail only. (Make sure to opt out of marketing mail from each.)

    There were a few bumps in the road, and I give you my strongest caution in this regard: BEWARE OF VOTER REGISTRATION! We were free and clear when Mom was in assisted living until the facility allowed someone to knock on doors to register voters. Within weeks the fraudsters had found her and the mail and the phone calls started all over again. (BTW, even legitimate sounding groups like The Republican National Committee are relentless and engage in these appalling practices just as much as the others.) In addition, BEWARE OF AARP! They may do some good things, but they most assuredly sell their mailing lists to all-comers and any contact with them will expose your loved one again.

    As for the phone scammers, that’s a tough one. Ours stopped when Mom went to a memory care home and we chose not to provide her with a phone. Inconvenient for staying in touch with us, yes, but by then she was struggling with how to use a phone anyway.

    Sadly our politicians will never take up the cause–it’s how they’re financing their campaigns and pet projects! Maybe we can interest ProPublica in investigating this shameful exploitation of our elderly population?

    Best of luck to all of you.

  27. The year following my father’s death, I weighed the forwarded mail – over a thousand pounds! That is correct. Almost all was exactly as others here describe, from the same corrupt immoral con artists who may or may not even be funneling funds into Rightwing election coffers. Why is the fraud so consistently disproportionately right and not left-leaning? Why is the Donald an actual Reality Candidate and not in jail for his variety of the usual sorts of white-collar violations? How can so many be in abject denial – they can’t call the Mainstream media liars when the video clips are right there to choke on. Come on, people, since he’s proving you can’t believe him, over and over, why do you still think you can TRUST him?

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