Junk Mail Queen

Wayne and I would encourage everyone with an elderly family member to keep a close watch on their loved one’s mailbox (and checkbook and credit card statements). This world is so full of organizations unscrupulously preying on the heartstrings of the elderly and frail, many of whom are feeble of mind and unable to understand the ramifications of the checks they write or the information they provide.

I’m taking a moment today to reshare this Facebook note I previously published on July 10, 2016.  As you know, since publishing this a little over a year ago, we have moved my mother in with us and have a much better handle on what mail she sees, but my heart still goes out to all of those elderly victims of junk mail abuse. Please click on over to my blog to read (or re-read).

I would dare say, you probably have never seen a mailbox as full as my mother’s. I’ve read that the “average home gets 453 pieces of junk mail each year.” By comparison, in one year’s time, my mother received 2,068 pieces of junk mail (I know this because my dear husband is the king of spreadsheets).

JunkMail50cent
Grrrrrrr!!!

 

Sadly, Mom feels compelled to open and read each and every piece of mail she receives. These junk mailers who prey on the elderly are easy to spot. The envelope screams “Open Me…Or Else!” Many of the envelopes are disguised to look like official government correspondence. The letters are written in a size 14 or 16 font and are about 4 pages in length. Most contain a postage-paid return envelope so that the recipient can more easily send them a donation. A fair number of them include some sort of a gift. One letter included a fifty-cent piece “because I didn’t have a stamp for your reply envelope…and I need your help.” Others include a brand new, crisp $1 or $2 bill…or even as little as a dime! Of course, the letters with the gifts are meant to make the elderly recipient feel obligated to respond in kind and, at the very least, open the mail so they don’t perchance throw away money.

As we began paying more attention to the tyranny of Momma’s junk mail, we noticed that Mom had written a check number, date and dollar amount on some of the envelopes. We combed through Momma’s checking and credit card statements and were alarmed to note that she was giving away a large percentage of her modest income from Social Security and her pension. Sadly, very little of her generosity went to the three organizations that had long been near and dear to Momma’s heart, including her local church.
I also noticed that there were several automatic payments on her Visa credit card statement. One in particular stood out to me. Why on earth was she paying $249.83 each month to “National Vehicle Protection” on her 2004 Buick? I also wondered what this vehicle protection covered, as she had many vehicle repair expenses in the past year and I saw no evidence that any were covered by this plan. Mom didn’t have a clue that she even had the coverage or that they already had $1,644.15 of her money. Thankfully, with persistent effort (phone calls, emails, and a letter), mom received a full refund of her money returned to her card.
How did mom get signed up for the National Vehicle Protection Plan? You can probably guess. By sending in a postage paid reply postcard, on which she had provided her credit card number and checked off an “enroll me now” box.
JunkMailSpreadsheet
A sample section of Wayne’s Junkmail Spreadsheet

It was clear to us that we needed to do something more to stop these unscrupulous junk mailers. My husband graciously took on the junk mail giant, making it his personal mission to assist my mom in stopping these crooks. He began keeping meticulous records in a spreadsheet as to who was sending the mail (some had different aliases, but were the same crooks) and what he had done to request that it stop. He first asked Mom to save the junk mail for us and to refrain from sending checks until we had done some research about the organization. She would sometimes forget, but generally began setting the mail aside in a basket for him to go through each week. Wayne began returning the junk mail to the senders in their own postage paid reply envelope with a request to be taken off their list. He also began contacting them via email, website or phone, if possible, and requesting an address change (we provided our address instead of hers). Early in the process, he tried using a service called Trusted ID and their “Catalog Choice” service that allows consumers to stop unwanted catalogs, credit card solicitations and other junk mail. Though this service was initially helpful, it was no substitute for our personal involvement in the war against the purveyors of junk mail.

And, of course, he maintained his spreadsheet so he could see who the worst offenders were and keep after them. Here is Wayne’s list of the top three worst offenders (see photo below):

JunkMailStacks
Three worst offenders
  1. FRC – Federation of Responsible Citizens (right stack). Primary themes: “Save Social Security”, “Impeach Obama” and “help us protect senior citizens”. (Wayne wonders who is protecting senior citizens from the FRC!)
  2. PII – Policy Issues Institute (middle stack). Pet appeals are healthcare, Impeach Obama, White House Watch, and United States Investigative Unit
  3. NCPPR – National Center for Public Policy Research. (left stack)
We have since moved Momma to Fitchburg to live near us, allowing us to help her more often. Even with a change of address, some of these predators have found her. Wayne and I would encourage everyone with an elderly family member to keep a close watch on their loved one’s mailbox (and checkbook and credit card statements). This world is so full of organizations unscrupulously preying on the heartstrings of the elderly and frail, many of whom are feeble of mind and unable to understand the ramifications of the checks they write or the information they provide.
I am happy to say that Momma’s new Fitchburg mail carrier isn’t quite as busy as the Milwaukee mail carrier (1 or 2 pieces of junk mail a day, compared with 6-10). I’m also very grateful for a husband who loves his mother-in-law enough to carve out the time to help her in this time-consuming way.
In blessing her, he has blessed me.

 

Author: barefootlilylady

Wife of one, mother of 2+2, and Grandma of 6 (3 girls and 3 boys!) and full-time caregiver for my sweet Momma with Alzheimer's. Passionate about Jesus, grandkids, Awana Clubs, gardens, quilts and cooking.

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