Beware The Magazine Subscription Telemarketers

The oldest generation of Americans comes from an innocent age when you didn’t question authority, you said “Thank you” and “Please,” and, God forbid, you did not tell an annoying person to take a hike, nor did you ever even think of hanging up the telephone on someone. (I come from the generation that relishes telling certain folks to take a hike; and hanging up the phone is akin to shooing a fly away from your ear.)

Scam artists know that last little ditty about old folks’ telephone manners and they use it to their slimy advantage.

Now, my mom is a sweet 80-year-old who won’t tell even a little white lie on the telephone just to save her daughter from unwanted phone callers. But for some reason this last week, she fibbed to a magazine telemarketer. My shock at her fibbing wasn’t quite as great as it was to the telemarketer’s response.

Actually, the telemarketer did two things that raised red flags in my skeptical mind and leads me to have no qualms about suggesting to my gentle readers that Annie Blackwell from the phone number 561-253-0000 in West Palm Beach, Florida is a scam artist.

On Wednesday morning last week, ‘Annie’ called my mom to sell her some magazines. My mother told ‘Annie,’ “We only subscribe to National Geographic.” And Annie’s reply was, “I see that here, and your subscription expires next month.” She went on to tell my mother that if she renews the subscription right then with ‘Annie’s’ company (which apparently was never identified) my mom would save big bucks.

My mother wasn’t interested in renewing any subscriptions and thanked the woman (that figures) and hung up. But the interesting thing is my folks haven’t subscribed to Nat Geo in almost two years. That was my mom’s little white lie. But ‘Annie’s’ big red lie really rankled me. Where exactly did she see a subscription that doesn’t even exist is about to expire?

Simple answer is, Annie lied to make a sale. Her misfortune was she lied to my mother.

Caller ID shows the West Palm Beach phone number calling in shortly before 10 in the morning on August 2

I didn’t hear about this whole thing until this morning. I thought it might be a good idea to look into the 561-253-0000 in the interest of my new consumer blog. But lo and behold, not long after my Sunday morning coffee conversation with my mom, she got yet another call from ‘Annie,’ who asked her if she was enjoying her subscription to National Geographic and would she like to renew it. Again, my mom said no thanks.

Red flag number two shot up, so I immediately called back the phone number on caller ID and got a gentleman who answered with a curt hello. I asked to speak to Annie Blackwell, but he said, “This is a business. There’s no one here by that name.” I explained that my mother had received two phone calls from a woman at his number. He said he didn’t know how that was possible and excused himself from my call.

Now, maybe there’s an employee somewhere in that West Palm Beach ‘office’ who’s working her dirty routine under the nose of an unsuspecting boss. But, in my experience—especially with a number of shady South Florida businesses—the boss is usually the fleece leader.

The Federal Trade Commission has successfully prosecuted fraudulent magazine subscription “services” in recent years and they continue to investigate others. But unless they are alerted to people like ‘Annie Blackwell,’ there is not much they can do.

Federal authorities estimate financial losses to fraudulent telemarketers to be anywhere from $3 billion to more than $40 billion a year. Why the big gap in those figures? Many victimized people are too embarrassed to tell anyone they’ve been taken, so the crimes don’t get reported and recorded. But typically, the victims of telemarketing fraud are seniors because of that polite thing they were taught way back in the 1930s, 40s and 50s, and because they’re usually at home, and because they usually have nest eggs they can draw from.

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