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InfoUSA rebuts New York Times article on telemarketing scam

Database services company infoUSA Inc. issued a statement yesterday in response to an article that appeared in the May 20 issue of The New York Times, claiming that the story unfairly tars the reputation of the direct marketing and banking industries.

InfoUSA claims the Times’ assertions about the company are based on the files of a “now completed investigation of a suspected telemarketing criminal” by the Iowa attorney general. Three years ago, infoUSA-owned Walter Karl provided documents at a meeting with Iowa’s assistant attorney general. At the conclusion of the investigation by the Iowa authorities, it was found that infoUSA had done nothing wrong.

“We reiterate today what we said to the Iowa’s assistant attorney general three years ago: There are many legitimate reasons for direct marketing to senior citizens (or any other demographic group),” infoUSA said in a statement. “Older Americans have a strong interest in leisure activities, health, insurance, retirement communities, financial planning, and other products and services, and advertisers in these industries rely on list brokers to help them reach their customers.

“To take just one example, AARP is a massive buyer of lists for direct marketing to older Americans,” the statement said. “That said, we understand the sensitivity of age information, and for that reason our policy is to pre-screen direct marketing materials intended to reach older consumers.”

The New York Times story highlighted the plight of a 92-year-old Army veteran who was bilked by telemarketing criminals who stole his life’s savings. The victim, Richard Guthrie, had entered a few sweepstakes, revealing his age and other details in a database sold by infoUSA. The Times article portrayed infoUSA’s role in a negative light.

The company maintains that it does not characterize individuals on lists as “gullible.” Nor does infoUSA compile lists called “Elderly Opportunity Seekers,” “Suffering Seniors” or “Oldies But Goodies.”

In addition, infoUSA said that list buyers identified in the article came to Walter Karl through the acquisition of a list brokerage company called JAMI Marketing.

“InfoUSA’s database contains several entries for a Des Moines resident named Richard Guthrie (possibly the gentleman featured in the article) but none of those entries contain age information,” the company said.

“We regret that the Times has chosen to recycle as ‘news’ this 3-year-old, closed inquiry by the Iowa authorities and has done so in such a misleading way,” Vinod Gupta, chairman/CEO of infoUSA, said in the statement.

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