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Scam mailers often prey on the elderly
"Some of these scams look like they're real," he said. "Most of them are drawn off of foreign banks."
Gallagher said that once a person sends away to one of these letters, they are then going to automatically be inundated with more letters.
"Once you respond to one of those things, the value of your name increases exponentially," he said. "They will start selling your name back and forth."
"My mother's name has been out on the 'sucker list,'" he said. "Since she responded to one, they think she's gonna respond to more now."
In fact, the terms and conditions on many of the pieces of mail John's mom received reserve the right to "make our mailing list available to companies whose products or services might be of interest to you."
Not only do these companies have the right to sell their mailing lists to other companies, they also reserve the right to advertise under "a variety of graphic representations and techniques for availability."
John's mother, for example, receives 10 to 15 pieces of mail a day that are from the same company but with different colors, styles and names.
"They look very lifelike and very valid," Gallagher said. "But they're not and once you respond to one, you're done."
Davis said it isn't easy to get off of the mailing list.
"The easiest solution is to shred it," he said. "If you haven't responded to the past three or four mailings, you'll fall off of the mailing list and your name will become less valuable. It costs them money to send mail without any response."
Eileen Thompson, help-line manager of the Alzheimer's Association, said the best way to help an elderly loved one stop responding to mail is to make sure they don't receive it.
"To avoid that form of fraud, the best thing to do is to divert mail to avoid them from having the temptation," she said.
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