The Sucker List

Earlier this week, I ran into my friend, Jane, at the grocery store. “Hey, I barely recognized you, Sue, behind your mask.”

“I’ve had 3 shots, but I wear a mask in the case there are others who are ill. I wrote a blog about your mother being scammed out of $5,000 a few weeks ago. No names, just about her grandson needing life-saving surgery during spring break in Mexico.”

“Sue, I need you to write another about my mother-in-law.” Jane talked and I listened. Her m-i-l receives 20-30 pieces of mail per day. The vast majority of them are requests for donations to their alleged non-profits. Each request includes a pen, a sticker, a magnetic calendar, or address labels. Even though, this woman’s income barely manages to pay the rent, she’s so moved by their request and free gift, she sends a $5.00 check.

Thus, Jane and her husband took away the checkbook. Yet, the nonagenarian was not deterred. She sends cash. Yesterday, Jane took lunch to her mother-in-law and saw her outgoing mail. “Mom, I’ll take your mail to the post office for you. Is that ok with you?” After an affirmative response, Jane stuffed two envelopes in her purse. When she got home, she opened them. Each held $25 in cash!

At Jane’s request, I did some research. In 1941, Crime Doesn’t Pay movie short coined the term: Sucker List–gullible folk, who bet the entire savings on “sure thing” horse races. And now, 80 years later, the Sucker List is a sophisticated way to lure the elderly into donating copious amounts to random charities. (Note charity is usually not what it appears to be. It’s a scam! No one should surmise cash donations end up in a bank.) Sucker Lists are sold to other scammers. If an elderly person receives multitudes of such mail, rest assured, he/she is on THE LIST!

The more I researched; the more outraged I became. Certainly, there must be ways to combat the Nigerians (well-known for this charade) and/or other shysters. The first and most obvious problem is that age is public record. If you have a landline, look yourself up on the White Pages and your age is displayed. Many internet searches also display age. How do you think marketeers target teens, newly weds, retirees, etc? Secondly, donate to a well-known charity several times, and you end up on the Sucker List. The same is true of mail-order catalogs. Buy once from Jackson’s and the ads multiply. My mom’s apartment was crammed full of shoe, dress, holiday catalogs.

However, there are several websites which verify the legitimacy of charitable organizations. One is The Better Business Bureau Wise Giving that offers info about national charities. Its phone is: 703-276-0100. Web site : As a word of caution, many victims of a scam refuse to believe they’ve been duped. Certainly, understandable given the current tenor of this country where people believe science, climate change, and election results are fake news.

But Jane has the ultimate solution! Scrutinize and verify every application for a nonprofit mailing status. Regular folk currently pay 55 cents to mail a letter, while bulk rate, non profits is about a nickel. Now, I’ve read the requirements to receive such a benefit and realize it’s rather simple to circumvent the rules. Jane, though, is relentless in her effort to mitigate this problem. She’s gathering firsthand accounts and examples to present to her US Senator. If you can help her, message me for her contact information. Thanks.

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