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Direct Mail Solicitations – Worth Your Time and Money?

A WashingtonWatch.com visitor wrote in yesterday asking about a solicitation she had received to sign a petition about the Social Security Preservation Act. The solicitation came from an organization called The Seniors Center with a P.O. Box address in Washington, D.C.

Direct mail is a common fund-raising technique in Washington, D.C., but it’s good to be skeptical of these kinds of things. While there are plenty of legitimate advocacy groups that use donated dollars to help advance the public policy goals of their membership, there are plenty more that do not. These latter groups raise money claiming an advocacy goal but use the money they collect simply to send more mail solicitations to raise more money.

Seniors are often their targets because many seniors want to be involved but lack the ability to determine which groups are legitimate and which are not.

A rule of thumb that I would use to decide whether to give to any advocacy group is whether you have ever heard of them before. If you have seen the group quoted or cited in newspaper articles, magazines, or television news, that means they are engaged on the issues – and it means you are engaged enough to judge. If you have not seen the group, either they are not a real advocacy organization, or you are not focused enough to intelligently spend money in this area. There is no substitute for being directly involved in public affairs, and writing a check to a group with an important-sounding name or a good fund-raising letter is not a substitute for that kind of engagement.

Of course, searching the Internet for information about a group might do the trick too. I found enough stories with negative and strange information about The Seniors Center and its founder Gary Jarmin that this looks like one to avoid.

Smart people check around before they write a check, and that includes writing in to yours truly for advice.

Visitor Comments for Direct Mail Solicitations – Worth Your Time and Money? RSS 2.0

linda williams

I have been trying to get these people–The Seniors Center– to STOP sending mail to my dead father for 10 months now. Nothing works to stop them. I return all their mail in the postage paid envelopes and the mail still comes at least twice a weeks. Any way to get them to stop?

Shirley B Wyatt

These people are ruthless. my mother is 90 years old and changed her address to mine. So now we both get the mail! There are at least 15 organizations that we get mail from usually with Edwin Pierson named. They are a fraud.My next step is to go to US mailfraud. It is so frustrating. Hours have been spent to stop this but to no avail. US postal,FBI fraud, StopFraud.gov and the attorney general of your state is a place to start.

Kelly Bolt

I’ve recently had my mother-in-law’s mail forwarded to my home because of an ongoing problem with these solicitations. She thinks they are bills and so she pays them! In the 3 weeks since we changed her address she has received 32 solicitations! They come from The Seniors Center (4), National Council for Survivors (7 requests), Americans for Faith and Freedom (3), U.S. Freedom Fund (2)and many others. The Arthritis Foundation & Habitat for Humanity & Boys Town are legit charities but have taken her for hundreds of dollars by sending her “gifts” that she feels obligated to pay for. They are all preying on our elderly! Shame on even the legit charities for this practice. It is criminal!

Dominick J.

This is the first tme I’ve ever received any mail from this group “the senior center” from Wahington, D.C. asking for money in the name of a Senator Jim DeMint to save Social Security. Well to say the least I WILL NOT send this group any money and will throw this “spam” mail away. Isn’t there an agency who could put these PUNKS out of business??

MED

I am dealing with my husband’s Uncle’s mail as he is 87 and in a nursing home. He, too, gets mail from all of the groups listed above plus The American Defense Center, Us Border Security Council, Us Seaport Commission, US Freedom Fund, Us Intelligence Council, Uniformed Services League,etc. Some are so bold as to use the same PO Box number.

Kelly Bolt

I was out of town for a couple days and when I got home my husband had saved all the solicitations his mother had gotten while I was gone. I started writing down the names of the organizations and totaled 24 with no repeats! She got a phone call from the Disabled Veterans of America asking why she hadn’t sent in her monthly donation and asking for her credit card information! She has no credit cards. They said it was no problem, they would bill her! She gave us a letter to mail to buy some slippers she saw in a magazine and my husband wouldn’t let her send it. It would put her new address right back on those lists! Last week we finally took her check book. So sad. These people are crooks.

Kelly Bolt

Forgot to mention: My husband thinks the government does nothing about this because these mailings are keeping the US Post Office up and running. These organizations must spend millions on postage and probably are keeping the USPS afloat!

Alice Christy

Senator Jim DeMint is a Republican from South Carolina. ‘Nuff said! The Senior Center is a scam to hoodwink the public, especially seniors, to think they’ll do something for us in stopping the raid on Social Security and the budget cuts. It’s a ploy. I too have received their mailing and threw it in the trash, where it belongs, after doing a little research. Beware folks!They lie and hoodwink!

Dominick J. Di Noto

The only research I had to do is read what is written in the body of the letter they send which reads “President Obama and the Democrats are Selling out Social Security and Medicare. Help save Medicare and Social Security, fill out the questionaire and donate” (Then they give you some amounts to use)–I sent one letter back calling them Liars and Frauds. BUT they still keep sending mail to me. Then I mailed all the information They sent me to My Senators and Congressperson. Still no action is being taken. I have no idea how they got my address ’cause I’ve ALWAYS regsitered Democrat. Why isn’t some one doing something to stop these frauds?

Kelly Bolt

We took this issue to the local TV station hoping if nothing else that we can warn other people that their elderly mothers and fathers could be getting scammed not only by this outfit but by many others. We saved everything Mom received in April. 182 pieces from 47 different “charities”. If you want to see the piece go to KIMATV.COM, the News heading, then Local & Regional and the pieced is “Scam Getting Thousands out of Yakima Seniors.” The box of mail we dumped on the table is quite impressive. We’ve found nothing we can do to make this stop.

Dominick J. Di Noto

Great going Kelly, you may not be able to STOP these scammers from sending out this trash BUT at least you are making Many Seniors aware this is happening. I’m surprised neither of my Senators or my Congressman OR the Social Security Department,the real one, haven’t responded to any of my messages.

Kelly Bolt

I’m not surprised you didn’t hear back from any politicians. Two reasons: 1. This is how they raise funds for their campaigns, also; and 2. The post office needs the money! The only way we can get the attention of the politicians is to get a lot of people to write in or call to demand action. Did you see the TV piece? I thought that box of mail was amazing! Wouldn’t have believed it if we hadn’t done it ourselves. One month! That’s all it took to collect that box of mail!

Dominick J. Di Noto

I recieved another piece of this JUNK mail from CAPITOLWATCH, from Steve Ralls, Executive Director. I called Senator Feinsteins off and asked if they were knowledgeable of this kind of mail going out to Democrats AND Republicans to be sure, alike. The Aide told me to send this information to Whashgington. I told I did and he asked me “Did they ever respond to you?” AND I said “no!” He said thank you–Please fax me the letter you have I will will see to it personally Senator Feinstein gets the letter. So I Faxed him 5 pages which included a cover letter and the return envelope so they can see where the money is being sent. When He recieved it. He called and thanked me and said he will personally see to it that Senator Feinstein sees it. So my suggestion to here is to do the same thing. Call the State office of Your elected Representative, be it Congressperson or Senator.

Dominick J. Di Noto

I called my Senators office in San Francisco by the way.

Kelly Bolt

Thank you, Dominick. I hope you got through to them. I will try that with the ones from Capital Watch but I don’t know what to do about the other 40 to 50 places sending these “gimme” letters. I will gather up all the ones that seem to be political in nature and contact my rep on those. He happens to live up the road from us. Maybe I’ll just drop them by the house!

Phyllis Berry

This article is the same situation we are dealing with my Mother. She has already been scammed once and keeps receiving scam letters daily. She lives with my family now and the mail is outrageous.

Kelly Bolt

So sorry, Phyllis, that this is happening to your mother, also. I had no luck contacting my state senators and reps. Of course it’s election season and they are sending out all their solicitations, also. If we can’t get our actual elected officials to stop doing this, I see no possible way of getting these crooks to stop.

Phyllis Berry

I did contact the offices of Bill Posey and Daniel Webster at DC. Who will be the person to confront this problem of mail. The TV, newspapers,radio,facebook all need to do an article on this monster.I wonder if Fox News has anyone?

Richard DiLauro

These people (The Seniors Center) should be ashamed of themselves. They make what is nothing more than a solicitation for money appear as an extremely urgent piece of express mail. My 85 year old mother received this today and was beside herself because she couldn’t understand what this was and why it was so urgent. To make matters worse, the multi-page form letter is replete with machine generated “hand-written” comments and circled paragraphs. But, most egregious of all was the “executive director” statement that he has taken the “risk of authorizing” the Post Office to charge the postage for the return AM Express Envelope to his account which is nothing more than a pre-paid business reply envelope included in most solicitations. I do hope there is a special place in hell, or at the very least federal prison, for these oxygen stealing, pathetic pieces of human waste.

Kelly Bolt

Sorry to hear this, Richard. It seems nothing can make it stop. My mother-in-law is still receiving (at my address) up to 15 pieces of this type of mail everyday. She has sent out no money since November 2010 when we took over her checkbook and yet the mail keeps coming. I thought that there was a chance that contacting politicians could help stop this practice until we started getting all the re-election literature. That fully explains why no politician will get behind stopping these people. I had several people thank me for the TV spot we did and am just thankful we could warn some people even tho our audience was not as large as I would have liked. We all need to be watching over our loved ones. Best of luck.

linda roberts

Been having the same problem with my mother who is 85 yrs. old I read the small print on the donation page and been having some luck getting rid of them The Seniors Center 1747 Pennsylvina Ave. #1000 Washington D.C. 20006

Kelly Bolt

Glad to hear, Linda, that you have had some luck in this area. If you go up and read my posts you will see that we’ve been working on this for over a year, too. We have gotten the legit charities to stop (March of Dimes, Easter Seals, VFW, etc.) but not the bogus ones. I’ve written letters to some of the places but that just seemed to cause an increase in others and new ones are now coming. I think the ones I contacted sold our address as a legit address to other organizations. We get 5 to 10 mailings a day! Magazines are also not very responsive about stopping the renewel requests. Some of which have put Mom’s subscriptions out to 2017!

Cathy Labadie

I am a caregiver for a couple in California. This couple gets this kinda of mail everyday. I have to look at it and tell her that it is a scam. I usually do research on the internet before. The unfortunate part of all of this is that there are probably a lot of seniors out there that send them money regularly. There needs to be a way to educate the seniors about these kind of scams.

terry davis

there is a website “Deceased Do Not Contact List” registration you can try.

Charlene Davis

My elderly mother has gotten so upset that she was in tears! These people are ruthless. We continue to tell her to ignore what she receives. There has to be a way to stop this harressment.

tom robertson

hi Kelly, i received a letter from Capitalwatch (Steve Ralls) today 11-28-12 and almost replied. but just before i wrote the check something told me to go on line and check it out. I’m glad i did and want to thank you for making people aware of what’s going on. once again thank you i’ll be more diligent in the future.

Kelly Bolt

Tom, so glad this information helped you. I would recommend everyone always do an internet check on any solicitations that come through the mail. Also, instead of listening to the sales pitch from telemarketers ask them to send their literature. They won’t but they will agree to send it. It’s unfortunate that legitamite charities are often responsible for peoples addresses getting out there for these scam artists. Give to your local food bank, drop off donations at your local SPCA, give to your church. It’s no longer safe to respond to requests by mail.

Please continue to watch out for these people trying to get money from our seniors!

Kelly Bolt

Charlene, I’m so sorry to hear that your mother was treated so shamefully by these people. We had a very difficult time trying to convince my MIL that these people were scamming her. When they send her a 5 cent shopping bag with what looks like and invoice for $25 she just paid it. They get a “bill” they pay it. And once they do, it just snowballs.

Please continue to spread the word. I can think of no other way to help people since the politicians don’t want to stop this because they solicit by mail, too.

Kathryn Ferriell

My uncle also receives these – 12 to 15 each day. I don’t understand how the people behind these scam organizations can live with themselves. Preying on the elderly is an especially low kind of fraud. I am wondering if I should have all his mail forwarded to my house–wish I could do this selectively. I also think it escalated after his friend sent out letters to all these places asking them to stop. Now they know there’s someone vulnerable receiving them. Shame. Shame. Shame.

C. J. CARE

DON’T THE POLITICIANS BEING TOUTED AS BEING ASSOCIATED WITH THE SENIORS CENTER CARE ABOUT THEIR GOOD NAME BEING ABUSED?! (MY SOLICITATION CITED KENTUCKY SENATOR RAND PAUL.)

AND, DOESN’T THE POSTAL SERVICE HAVE ANYTHING TO SAY ABOUT THE ILLEGALITY OF THIS FRAUD?!

Rose R.

Check writing can easily provide ongoing access to the account due to the fact that both the routing and account number are clearly printed, not to mention an authorized signature is provided to promote ongoing fraud should a check fall into the hands of scammers. Therefore all monetary gifts should be sent electronically using the financial institution’s bill pay system to minimize any threat of compromise to the account.

Becky

With all these like comments, it seems like there should be something we could do to protect our loved ones.I too am maintaing a list of junk mail my mother gets. There needs to be a LAW AGAINST this ABUSE!! By the way, I have 55 on my list! What can we do?!?

Christina Good

My Mom was involved in a postal scam they took most her money….I get mail from these creeps all the time and have been trying to get it to stop since march…I am getting my moms mail …these creeps rent /share info without regard to who they are dealing with like scammers

Ruth

My mom is a victim of all these scams. They all want money and I don’t know how to stop them. I have emailed them telling them to remove her from their mailing address, I have contacted my representative who referred me to the Attorney General who wants all this paper work on each scam. Why can’t something be done about this

Kelly Bolt

Sorry to hear this, Ruth. We have now found that all the “charities” I contacted to have Mom removed from their lists are sending their crap to my husband and I. Once they received my letter requesting they stop sending mailings to Mom they just started sending them to my husband and I. My congressman, Doc Hastings, R, Washington, has not responded to any phone calls or letters. Not even a form letter. We continue to receive mailings for Mom everyday and they go directly to the trash. Mom is now in a nursing home and the money she sent to these people over the years would probably cover at least a year’s worth of her costs there. Instead, she will run out of money around March and have to go on Medicaid. I’m sorry I’ve never been able to come up with an answer for this but at least more people are watching out for their seniors.

Rachal

I have been having the same problem with my dad who is 94. He has been receiving this junk mail since 2010. I just found out about it several months ago. First I sent a letter to the different causes asking to have my dad removed from their list. About a week ago I found a telephone number on one of the letters. I called and ask for my Dad’s name to be removed. They were very nice and said it would take about 4 weeks to get his name off. Most of the mail is premailed. One lady from the heart association said there was a web site and address to write to. Here is what she sent to me: If you are receiving similar types of mailings from other non-profit organizations and want your name removed completely from their mailing lists, you may visit Direct Marketing Association’s website, dmachoice.org, or contact them by mail at:

Direct Marketing Association
Manage Your Mail
1120 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10036-6700

I hope this helps.

Theresa Colbert

Going over your commnts having found your site via Google. I am experiencing the same frustrations trying to help my 89 year old father going through his mail. Sometimes I have called the sources directly when I can get a phone number. I learned that many of these groups package their mailings well in advance and send them to the post offices where they sit for days and weeks until they are mailed out. No wonder I was finding the name of a dead senator on sent petitions! I am sick of these people who take advantage of seniors. Can’t our Congress do something about this??

Valerie Stevens

I too have been trying to stop all this endless mail to my parents (86 & 89), to no avail. It is so overwhelming for my mother, and my father just keeps sending checks out. Some people ask why it matters where he sends his money, but he has worked hard for his money, and now it is just filling someone’s pocket! It is sad enough that they cannot drive and do the things they used to, now the phone rings for donations and the piles of junk come. It is too time consuming for them. I know there is no easy fix, but maybe I can turn this into a Boy Scout project to eliminate these scams. Thanks for letting me vent!!

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