Friday, June 01, 2007

The Clinton connection: InfoUSA Bilking the elderly with corporate assist

There is nothing more despicable than bilking the poor, elderly and/or infirm. And it happens all too often. People are suckered into giving out information to unscrupulous telemarketers who deplete their bank accounts and leave them with barely a cent to their name. And where do these crooks find their potential victims? From publicly traded companies that sell them lists of potential dupes, like InfoUSA that has advertised and sold databases of "Elderly Opportunity Seekers" (with names etc of 3.3 million older people "looking for ways to make money"), and "Suffering Seniors", a list that contained info on 4.7 million people with cancer or Alzheimer's disease. There was also one called "Oldies But Goodies" that included the names of 500,000 gamblers over the age of 55 (which sold for 8.5 cents per name), and one that claimed: "These people are gullible. They want to believe that their luck can change."

Telemarketing sales have increased, substantially, in spite of implementing the federal "do not call" registry 3 years ago. Telemarketers grossed more than $177 billion in 2006, and it's estimated that 30% of those sales were to seniors. The elderly are easy prey because "they are often at home, rely on delivery services, and are lonely for the companionship that telephone callers provide." According to an FTC ( Federal Trade Commission) lawyer, C. Steven Baker, “Criminals focus on the elderly because they know authorities will blame the victims or seniors will worry about their kids throwing them into nursing homes. Frequently, the victims are too distracted from dementia or Alzheimer’s to figure out something’s wrong.”

One of the many ways these 'thieves' dupe unsuspecting seniors into divulging information about their bank accounts, is by posing as Social Security Administration officials or pharmacy employees claiming that computers have crashed or prescription records are incomplete and then threatening that their medication or checks will be delayed without it. With the pertinent information, in hand, they then rely on banks like Wachovia and others to "create unsigned checks that withdraw funds from victims' accounts. Such checks, once widely used by gyms and other businesses that collect monthly fees, are allowed under a provision of the banking code. The difficult part is finding a bank willing to accept them." Wachovia obviously had no problem complying with that kind of criminal activity, because over the years, the bank has accepted over $142 million worth of unsigned checks and collected millions of dollars in fees from those scam companies. And, in spite of thousands of warnings from the victims' banks and various attorney generals, they continued to do business with those companies until the government filed a law suit in 2006.

InfoUSA, is one of the largest "list brokers" in the U.S. and claims, on its website, to have data on 210 million consumers and 14 million businesses, and although some of its clients are legit (including Reader's Digest and Conde' Naste) they have no compunction dealing with the criminal fringe and have sold thousands of lists to companies that have scammed the elderly.

You might have noticed InfoUSA (owned by Vinod Gupta) in the news recently. Apart from their dubious dealings with scammers of seniors, which has only recently come to light, some angry shareholders filed a law suit last year claiming, among other things, that "Mr. Gupta wasted the company’s money trying “to ingratiate himself” with his high-profile guests." And who might those "high-profile guests" be? None other than La Hillary and Bill Clinton! Gupta, a major fan and supporter, flew the Clintons to Acapulco, Mexico in 2002 (for a family vacation) on his private jet at a cost of $146,866. "During the next four years, infoUSA paid Mr. Clinton more than $2 million for consulting services, and spent almost $900,000 to fly him around the world for his presidential foundation work and to fly Mrs. Clinton to campaign events." Although Hillary's people insist she "complied with all the relevant ethics rules" (i.e. reimbursement of the equivalent of a 1st-class ticket) they refused to share what that amount might be. And though the law suit doesn't specifically mention the Clintons, no-one (on either side) disputes the fact that it does refer to them.

The Clintons have a long (and more recently for Bill, 'profitable') history with Gupta. "Before leaving office, Mr. Clinton appointed Mr. Gupta to the board of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Earlier, Mr. Clinton had nominated him for two minor ambassadorships, which Mr. Gupta declined because of business commitments." Bill received $2.1 million in quarterly payments from July 2003 to April 2005, for his consulting services. His contract was renewed, in October 2005, for another 3 years for 1.2 million, with an option to buy 100,000 shares of company stock. No-one is very forthcoming about what Billy boy actually does for the company, but someone at infoUSA said that Clinton was expected to make appearances at several company events per year, because his presence "adds a lot of credibility."

Stormy Dean, CFO of infoUSA insists that Bill has no affiliation with the data collection aspect of the business, and (to be fair) their exploitative business practices were not uncovered until Iowa authorities started investigating questionable telemarketers in 2005. However, infoUSA was found to have helped provide lists to companies that had already been prosecuted for fraud, or were under investigation, dating back to, at least, 2001. Someone must have known. And why did it take the recent New York Times article (about the Iowa investigation in 2005!) to arouse the interest of the FTC? They stated they might start investigating infoUSA themselves, but what took so long, and will they actually follow through? And surely, Presidents and Presidential candidates would want to make sure that those they affiliate with (and accept donations from) are above reproach. I would assume they have the resources to research the backgrounds of potential donors, particularly the high profile ones.

And I find it doubly ironic that the Clintons would cozy up to a company that collects personal data and information on millions of individuals and businesses (from various sources, both legit and questionable) when Senator Clinton has sponsored legislation protecting consumers' rights to privacy.

But I guess it's just politics, as usual. And more hypocrisy from the liberal elite.


Pat Jenkins said...

she was just doing what was allowed!! her pathetic response. good research on this one incog, i never knew the scope of the telemarketing scam. multiple this with internet info as well and you have quite an industry. thanks!!

Panhandle Poet said...

Don't ya love the credibility quote?

Papa J said...

When Christ said that it would be easier for a Camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven, this is what he was talking about.

The Clinton's sleep in satin sheets (seperate beds) while the elderly eat dogfood for Sunday dinner. Nice.

WomanHonorThyself said...

great research hun..whered ya get the time? youre right...the problem is tragic...and does one sleep at night taking advantage of the old or infirm eh...

Incognito said...

Apparently Gupta even stayed at the White House while Bill was still Prez.

And sad that people get scammed all the time, not just the elderly. Easier I guess than working hard.

Frasypoo said...

I agree with womanhonorthyself how do these people sleep at night after robbing the elderly ?
I believe in "it will come around and bite them in the ass" !!Hopefully it will be soon.

Incognito said...

It always does Frasy... what goes around comes around.. as they say.

Strawberry said...

They pick on the elderly because they know that when they threaten them, the poor people are terrified and don't all have someone to verify what they are being told! I agree with the other comments - how do these people sleep at night? Their judgment will certainly come!

I don't know why everyone is picking on poor His Highness, Bill and Her Highness, Hillary! They are just 2 folks trying to make a living - right?!

Actually - It is absolutely incredible that this hasn't made national news - but then again - maybe not!

Incognito said...

Strawb... The elderly are also afraid of losing their independence when the kids find out. It's all terribly sad. Losing their retirement savings.

And maybe there's more to it than meets the eye.