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You would hope, right? It's actually a lot of shades of gray.

The most astounding part about it was once the scammers had this verbal consent, they check could print a check themselves against my grandmother's account and cash it.

We started with my grandmother's bank, WAMU, thinking surely they would cancel or reverse the withdrawal. Nope, they had their fraud department "investigate" and concluded that the withdrawal was legitimate. Blew my fucking mind.

I started documenting my efforts to do something about this on a blog and eventually ended up getting contacted by email by a NY Times reporter who was investigating the subject. Well, if you're not ticked off enough by this story, read on:


My grandmother was lucky in that she was only taken for a couple thousand dollars. But even that could have been extremely tough on her if she hadn't had family around to pitch in to make up the loss.

> 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 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.”

> Vast databases of names and personal information, sold to thieves by large publicly traded companies, have put almost anyone within reach of fraudulent telemarketers

> Mr. Guthrie’s name first appeared on a list used by scam artists around 2002, after he filled out a few contest entries that asked about his buying habits and other personal information.

This is a good argument against the cancer that is advertising, marketing, etc. Even if you truly have nothing to hide, are happy to receive targeted ads and offers, it's just a matter of time before the information falls into the wrong hands and gets used against you.

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