HELP LINE: Beware of scams in the mail

GREED IS AN amazing thing, but that isn’t news.

Pretty much, it seems that if there’s a way to get blood out of a turnip, or any money out of any of us, someone will find a way to do it.

Or try.

And that indomitable entrepreneurial spirit doesn’t always limit itself to the common confines of “legality.”

It feels to me sometimes that cons, scams and what-nots have almost gotten easier as our world has gotten more and more complex.

You can start with the internet, email, social media, robo-calls and desktop publishing, but that’s not all there is to it.

The financial world in which most of us attempt to function has become, it seems, infinite and monolithic: This business is owned by that holding company, which is part of this corporation, and they bought something from so-and-so, repackaged it and sold it to somebody else, who called it something else and tried to sell it back to us!

… Or something like that.

And after a while, we can sort of glaze over and just hope that we don’t end up being on the wrong end of someone else’s greed.

I get it, but we all need to know about this:

Recently, a reader who will remain nameless received a very official-looking packet of information from a very official-sounding “company.”

Several pages proceed to detail the “fact” that she owes them $889.70, with absolutely no reference as to what she might owe them $889.70 for.

It conspicuously proclaimed the “good news” that she had been “pre-approved” for a discount program designed to save her money and advises her to “… act now to maximize your savings and put this debt behind you.”

Specifically, she could select Option 1 (40 percent off) and pay a mere $533.82!

Or, it appears, she could select Option 2 and skate by with six monthly payments of “only” $118.62!

Or, if all else failed, our reader could opt for Option 3, and get by with monthly payments as low as $50 per month, and the company recommended she call today to discuss her options.

Conveniently, a payment coupon was enclosed, as was an account number, an original account number, a phone number and a couple of addresses, depending on whether she wanted to talk or just send money.

The original creditor was named: a bank, with a lot of initials in its name “Nevada;” apparently, what happens in Nevada does not, necessarily, stay there.

(Note: I just found a third address! These people are everywhere!)

Finally, there is an important-looking disclosure that read: “Important Disclosure Information: This is a communication from a debt collector. This is an attempt to collect a debt. Any information obtained will be used for that purpose.”


Now our reader — who does not seem to me to be addled, confused or demented — is adamant that she has never heard of these people or the original creditor and sure as you-know-what she does not owe them $889.70!

In fact, she is so sure that she took her official-looking packet to the post office, which hadn’t seen anything like it, but asked her to fill out a form for mail fraud.

She has.

Can I absolutely assure you — or her, or myself, for that matter — that this isn’t somehow a legitimate debt?

Well, no, because “… this business is owned by that holding company, which is part of this corporation, and they bought something from so-and-so, repackaged it and sold it to somebody else, who called it something else and tried to sell it back to us.”

But I sure as heck can’t assure you that it is, either.

And this gal had the chutzpah to say, rather vocally, “I don’t think so!”

Good for her.

So, what should the rest of us take away from this?

Well, for one thing, the realization that we have been lulled-and-dulled into a mindset of accepting whatever comes at us because it’s all too complex and only they understand it, so I’ll just do what somebody seems to be telling me to do because they must be right and …

… And GEE! It looks so … official!

We’re not children, we’re not stupid and, at last census, most of us aren’t sheep.

We’re reasonably intelligent human beings who have managed, somehow, to get this far, so we are allowed to say, “What? Explain this to me slowly, and in excruciating detail, or take your pre-approved discount program and …” well, you get it.

Yes, that might inconvenience someone and, yes I suppose, it might even annoy someone. Gee, I’m so sorry.

Or it might make them look for greener pastures somewhere else — pre-approved discount program and all.


Mark Harvey is director of Clallam/Jefferson Senior Information & Assistance, which operates through the Olympic Area Agency on Aging. He is also a member of the Community Advocates for Rural Elders partnership. He can be reached at 360-452-3221 (Port Angeles-Sequim), 360-385-2552 (Jefferson County) or 360-374-9496 (West End), or by emailing [email protected].

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