Skip to main content

Ripping Off Seniors


My ninety year old mother-in-law lives with us.  She is generally in good health, and her memory and mind are good.  However, the scam mails showing up in our mailbox are increasingly sophisticated, and she frequently falls for them.
Almost every day we receive one or more letters –in impressively designed envelopes-touting the imminent reduction in Medicare benefits, or Social Security benefits, or both, and the necessity of sending a contribution to some appropriately named organization such as the Center for Saving Medicare.  The letters are worded to convince the reader that Congress is on the verge of gutting (Medicare; Social Security; or some other program).  And that the reader must send money immediately, immediately- or their benefits will be stripped.

The various subscription services have polished their direct mail messages to a fine gloss.  She falls for these scams frequently.  With the Baby Boom swing into older ages fully underway, I’m sure these organizations are only going to get stronger and smarter.  Which means both those of us who are sixty or better, or those who help their parents, grandparents and so on, must be vigilant and prevent granddad from getting milked.

I’m sure my mother-in-law spends $3 or $4 per week on postage, as she’s become engaged in the publishers’ “sweepstakes”.  Just about every day she receives an envelope with quite amazing graphics and messaging, announcing that a winner has been certified, or there are now guaranteed winners, etc. and she dutifully fills out something and returns some direct response piece.  Fortunately she generally doesn’t buy or subscribe to whatever they are hawking. Occasionally, she receives a large package with bold print announcing that she’s a winner!  Cleverly done too: ELLEN: YOU ARE A WINNER!  OPEN IMMEDIATELY!  TIME SENSITIVE! And so on.  Inside are coupons entitling her to amazing discounts – e.g. buy a computer for only $400.  Examine the fine print, and with even a little knowledge, you’ll know that model is at least two years old.

Here’s the point: if you are helping out some older adults, you may have to become their advisor to prevent them from being ripped off.  Ellen isn’t being scammed out of thousands, but grifted out of $30 or $40 per month she could put to far better use.  I would say shame to these direct mailers, but they obviously don’t have a sense of shame.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Book Review: What Matters Now by Gary Hamel

Interview of Eric Schmidt by Gary Hamel at the MLab dinner tonight. Google's Marissa Mayer and Hal Varian also joined the open dialog about Google's culture and management style, from chaos to arrogance. The video just went up on YouTube. It's quite entertaining. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)Cover of The Future of ManagementMy list of must-read business writers continues to expand.Gary Hamel, however, author of What Matters Now, with the very long subtitle of How to Win in a World of Relentless Change, Ferocious Competition, and Unstoppable Innovation, has been on the list for quite some time.Continuing his thesis on the need for a new approach to management introduced in his prior book The Future of Management, Hamel calls for a complete rethinking of how enterprises are run.

Fundamental to his recommendation is that the practice of management is ossified in a command and control system that is now generations old and needs to be replaced with something that reflects an educat…
Have you ever watched, or been involved in, a business failure, where, despite the best efforts of hardworking people, the business doesn’t survive? Scott Sonenshein lived through it, as he describes in the Introduction to his engrossing book Stretch.  (In some books, the reader can skip the intro- not this one; the introduction is a must-read part of the book.) He was hired by start-up Vividence in Silicon Valley at the very apex of the tech boom.  Despite prestige VC backers, top-tier hires and $50 million, Vividence didn’t make it. As his career continued, that experience led to an interest in why some well-funded operations don’t succeed, while other, more resource constrained, do. Peter Senge wrote about reinforcing cycles as part of his book The Fifth Discipline, which I consider one of the finest business books ever penned. In it, Senge describes the downward cycle that some companies fall into, and why it is so difficult to reverse. Sonenshein explores those cycles from diffe…

The Acceleration of Asset Lite Business Models

The number of asset lite businesses is steadily increasing, as is the breadth of industries effected.  I first noticed them in the 1970’s, when Baron Hilton sold several flagship Hilton hotels while retaining management contracts that entitled Hilton Corporation to a share of revenue and earnings. Over the next two decades, Marriott Corp copied and then perfected the hotel management agreement business approach, coupling a Marriott franchise with a management agreement for any one of a growing stable of brands (Fairfield Inns, Courtyard by Marriott, Residence Inns, J.W. Marriott, etc. etc.), enabling absentee investor/owners.  It turns out, however, that asset lite business structures date back much earlier.
Franchises and Dealers Early versions of asset lite businesses include franchise and dealer organizations. Soft drink and beer distributors, auto dealers and tire and repair franchises date to the early nineteen hundreds, as manufacturers needed mass distribution. The dealers furn…