Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Scammers Inc. - con artists put warning labels on unsolicited mail and still make money

We have all been receiving unsolicited phone call offers and letters in the mail, we have seen spam email and popups on dodgy websites telling us our computer is about to be shut down by Microsoft (even if the machine was an Apple) unless we call the number on the screen NOW.

But these scams and the many similar ones are not what the blogster wants to write about today.

There is another kind of scam, and legally speaking it is not even a scam because the senders put several disclaimers on the envelope and the content.

In many ways, these mailing are like cigarette packs in Europe: big warning labels and graphic images of damage to your health, but enough people continue to smoke to keep the business profitable.

The senders use company names that might hint at an official institution if you just glance at the envelope, of example, if the blogster told you something came from Local Records Office, would you immediately think 'local government' or 'a company named Local Records Office'?

And the warning that tampering with postal mail is a crime, subject to assorted fines or even jail time? That applies to every single item of mail sent with the US postal service.

Yes, even the Christmas cheers by your favorite aunt are protected under US federal law.

Plus, the senders tell you right underneath the statute reminder that this letter is not from any government office or an entity affiliated with the government.

You still open the letter, right?

Of course, you do.

What is inside? You may find the company offers you a copy of the deed of your house (the document that proves you are the legal owner), or they may offer you additional information about your property, for example, how much the taxes are, or how many other houses in your neighborhood have the same value as your home.

All of this information is either free (look on real estate websites like Zillow, Truila, Refin) or available from your city or county at a nominal fee.

How does the blogster know it* can obtain the information or a copy of the deed from the local authorities at a nominal fee?

The friendly senders of the unsolicited mail tell it so right in the letter.

They also have a disclaimer that the letter is not an invoice/a bill, just an offer of service. Helpful as they are, they do have a detachable slip with their address and the amount they charge at the bottom of the letter.

You will also get a refund if they can not provide the information/papers offered.

How much do they expect you to pay for the data/paper?

It looks like the going rate is between 80 and 90 dollars, nicely and objectively calculated, of course, so $ 89.90, for example.

The question is: who would fall this something like this?

The blogster is afraid that there might be two main susceptible groups: poor owners (in other words, mostly the mobile home owner population) as well as recent immigrants.

We'll probably never know because the service if completely legal and - there is some irony here - goes well beyond informing the receiver of cheaper alternatives.

Unlike, for example, some credit card or cell phone companies with contract fine print that requires an electron microscope to read.
 
* Gender neutral blogsters rock.