State AG prosecutes mail fraud, offers tips to avoid being a victim

“Predatory” Mass Mail Operation Permanently Barred from Targeting Iowans

Miller alleges NY business sent deceptive prize mailings to older Iowans and marketed victim lists to con artists

 

DES MOINES – A New York company will cease mail marketing to Iowans to resolve a consumer fraud lawsuit filed by Attorney General Tom Miller.

Polk County District Court Judge Brad McCall on Dec. 12 approved a consent judgment that resolves Miller’s lawsuit, filed in September, against Waverly Direct Inc., and owner Gordon F. Shearer, of East Rockaway, NY.

The suit alleged the company solicited older Iowans with bogus notices of financial winnings and then sold customer lists to con artists.

According to the lawsuit, since 2005 Shearer and his company sent Iowans letters from the fictitious director of the bogus “Numerological Resource Center,” congratulating each Iowan for being personally “selected” to receive a large sum of money and other life-changing benefits.  The letter asks the recipient to provide key personal information — including age and phone number – and to send it back with a $25 fee.

“Deceiving older Iowans into making payments – sometimes repeated payments – of $20 or $25 was reason enough to sue these operators,” Miller said.  “But even more damaging was their practice of renting lists of victims’ names to other scammers. That multiplied peoples’ losses – especially those who are more vulnerable.”

According to the lawsuit, the case involved a series of d Miller said that company records identified about 70 recent Iowa victims who will receive refund checks, but that other Iowans who lost money to this scheme should contact the Consumer Protection Division for a refund as well.

“We stopped this deceptive operation from continuing to target Iowans, but sadly there are many others with very similar schemes,” Miller said.  “Be skeptical whenever you read or hear a claim that you’re a big winner, whether it comes through the mail, online, by phone, or in-person.”

Miller offers tips to consumers to avoid being the victim of a scam:

  • Claims that you’ve won a big prize should make you get a tight hold on your wallet, because it’s almost always part of a scam.  Don’t be fooled!
  • Personalized letters from strangers may convey a personal interest in your life and well-being, but they are typically mass-mailed to tens of thousands, to see who will “bite” by sending a check. Don’t waste your money!
  • Once victimized, an Iowan who sends money to scammers may be added to a target list used by other scammers, who will then create other lists to rent, and so on. This can result in a “feeding frenzy,” as one fraud after another goes after each vulnerable victim.
  • Iowans should be especially aware that this can happen to older relatives, neighbors, or friends, and should report such incidents to the Consumer Protection Division.

For more information or to file a complaint, contact the Consumer Protection Division through the Attorney General’s website at www.IowaAttorneyGeneral.gov or email directly to consumer [at] iowa [dot] gov.  Consumers can also call the Consumer Protection Division toll free at 1-888-777-4590.

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