September 20, 2006
These were just a few of the scams that showed up in thousands of pieces of mail collected by more than 300 volunteers from around Missouri as part of Senior Sting 2006, an anti-fraud project of Attorney General Jay Nixon. Nixon said his office sent 248 letters and notices this week in the first round of enforcement actions related to Senior Sting. Nixon said the project also is helping Missouri's seniors recognize many of the various types of scams that show up in their mailboxes.
“During May, the senior volunteers we worked with saved more than 8,000 pieces of suspicious-looking mail out of the tens of thousands of pieces of mail they received,” Nixon said. “They sorted it into various categories at sorting events around the state, and turned it over to my office. My attorneys and investigators examined that mail closely and identified hundreds of pieces that we are following up on with letters, notices, further investigation and, quite likely in some cases, lawsuits.”
Nixon said his staff sent notices of intention to issue a cease and desist order to 76 organizations both in the United States and in foreign countries that sent letters to Missouri seniors claiming they were prizewinners in lotteries. The mailings from the lotteries typically lead the recipient to believe he or she has won a valuable prize and often require the payment of some sort of fee to claim the prize. The notice states that the Attorney General's Office will be issuing an order against the organization to cease and desist violations of Missouri consumer protection laws.
Another 28 organizations suspected of promoting pyramid schemes are receiving letters from Nixon's office. Nixon is requiring the organizations to provide his office with more information and lets them know that failure to respond to the letter could prompt a formal investigation.
“Mailings from pyramid operators or purported foreign lotteries can be very deceptive in leading the recipient to believe that he or she has won a large prize or that the enterprise is perfectly legitimate,” Nixon said. “Unfortunately, too many people fall for these schemes and find out the hard way that the money will be flowing in only one direction — to the con artist.”
Many of the pieces of mail collected during Senior Sting were charitable solicitations. The Attorney General's Office has sent letters to 144 organizations mailing such solicitations, informing them that Missouri's Charitable Organizations and Solicitations Law requires all charitable organizations and professional fundraisers to register with the Attorney General's Office before beginning solicitation in Missouri. The letter from Nixon asks that the soliciting organization either provide proof of registration or send proof of the organization's 501(c)(3) status, which would exempt it from registering.
“The work of our 300 senior volunteers and the 10 senior advocacy groups to help us in collecting and sorting mail was invaluable,” Nixon said. “Educating Missourians, particularly seniors who are most often the target of mail scams, about the potential fraud that can await them in their mailboxes is as important as the legal action my office is taking.”
Nixon said his staff of attorneys and investigators are continuing to look through hundreds of other pieces of mail, and that his office would be conducting formal investigations and potentially filing lawsuits against several other individuals and organizations as a result of Senior Sting 2006.
Missourians who have questions about consumer fraud or who want to file a consumer fraud complaint can do so online at www.ago.mo.gov or by calling the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-392-8222.