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Toilet paper scammers flushed out

Con artists convinced elderly people they needed special toilet paper and other products to meet new government rules for septic tanks.

By Karen Datko Nov 29, 2011 4:48PM

This would be comical if it weren't so nefarious: Scammers in South Florida convinced elderly victims they needed to buy special toilet paper and other products to meet new government standards for septic tanks. (Preying on the elderly deserves a special place in the underworld, in my book.)


"Through this scheme, some elderly customers were defrauded into purchasing more than 70 years worth of toilet paper," says a press release by the U.S. Attorney's Office of South Florida.


The Miami Herald reports, "Prosecutors said the company scammed about $1 million from more than a dozen victims from across the country."


In connection with the case, three people have pleaded guilty to a federal charge of conspiring to commit wire fraud and have agreed to cooperate with investigators.


Here's how the scam worked, according to authorities: First, elderly folks with septic tanks got calls saying the company was the only one recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies to sell an anti-sludge treatment for the tanks. Cost: $199. Those who ordered were put on an "idiot" list, according to Reuters, and subsequently told they'd need to buy a special type of toilet paper, plus detergents and soaps, to meet new EPA regulations.


The EPA may regulate a lot of things but the type of toilet paper that reaches your septic tank is not one of them. Post continues below.

What's the lesson here? Elderly folks are targeted by criminals, and we need to look out for vulnerable family members and friends. "Financial abuse of the elderly is a huge and growing problem," Liz Weston wrote at MSN Money. "A recent MetLife study pegged the annual cost at nearly $3 billion, a 12% increase from 2008."


Weston provides six tips to help protect elderly loved ones from such abuse.


An FBI Web page identifies eight different types of fraud that seniors are specifically targeted for, including telemarketing fraud. It also provides a list of precautions to take to avoid phone scams, including:

Always check out unfamiliar companies with your local consumer protection agency, Better Business Bureau, state attorney general, the National Fraud Information Center, or other watchdog groups. Unfortunately, not all bad businesses can be identified through these organizations.
Be sure to talk over big investments offered by telephone salespeople with a trusted friend, family member, or financial advisor. It's never rude to wait and think about an offer.
Never send money or give out personal information such as credit card numbers and expiration dates, bank account numbers, dates of birth, or social security numbers to unfamiliar companies or unknown persons.

More on MSN Money:

Nov 29, 2011 7:09PM

The lesson here is that the Gov't has so many regulations, that people will not doubt that one day they will require special toilet paper and EPA mandated anti-sludge treatments.

Try and buy a 100 watt light-bulb on January 1. Yep, another Gov't regulation.

It's so sad that the land of the free is now land of more laws than will fit in a wall sized law office bookshelf. And that doesn't include even more numerous regulations.

I would just like the US Gov't to issue each citizen a copy of all the rules, laws and regulations that we must follow. (Remember, they claim that your ignorance of a law is no defense).

Oh, wait - they would have to cut down every tree on the planet to make the paper to print it all.

The US was formed as a Constitutionally LIMITED Gov't.  No wonder our country is going down - Gov't is sucking everything in (our freedoms, our money) like a black hole.

Nov 30, 2011 9:13AM
Nope, These scammers should be forced to repay every penney they steal from the elderly and then pay EACH elderly person they have scammed $1000 per month for 10 years.
Nov 30, 2011 12:31PM
Rule 1:  If they call you with an offer,  set the phone down and tell them you have to have your lawyer son talk to them,  please hang on..
Rule 2:  same as rule 1.

Nov 30, 2011 10:56AM
We need a telemarketers registry.  If you call people soliciting and you're not on it you get big fines and jail time.  If you're on it you must register what it is you sell.  If you are found to be selling something undeclared, again, big fines and jail time.  Would be good if the phone company had a feature to check if the caller is a registered telemarketer too.  All possible.  So why isn't it being done?  Because the govt. can't really sink its teeth into profit there.
Nov 30, 2011 9:15AM
I used to work at a postal contract station. We had one elderly woman come in just about daily to purchase money orders for organizations.  She must have spent tens of thousands int he years I was there. I tried to talk to her about it and asked if she was SURE that she should be sending them money, "OH, but they need it" she would say.  I told her that I did not feel good about her sending so much money every day, to people that might be trying to take her money from her.  "Oh no, they NEED the money" was all she would say.  I tried to call the place where she lived (a senior living facility) with my concerns, they said there wasn't much they could do, but they would try to look into it.   She was ditzy little old lady, she was really cute and kind with a cute accent from Austria or Germany, I always felt bad for her. 
Nov 29, 2011 9:40PM
Now my personal opinion on elder abuse.  Summary, public execution of ANYONE that commits elder abuse.  That would be a good first step.
Nov 29, 2011 8:58PM

Just a comment about Ryan.

 I like the government. The schools, roads, our soldiers, police, firemen, teachers, social security, medicare, the courts, the people who keep the food safe, the water safe, maintain the sewers, provide the water, regulate the businesses, keep me safe from robber barons, sweat shops, child labor, and con men. I am grateful for the taxpayers who are willing to contribute to all these things and are not ready to throw out the entire country out just because there are a few flaws. I am grateful for all the people in this country who are grateful and willing to work to make it better even if it is hard. I am grateful for those who want to be part of the solution. As for you Ryan if you don't like it here go somewhere else where there is no government, like Somalia and you can enjoy the freedoms you want.

Nov 30, 2011 2:38PM
Nov 30, 2011 11:59AM


How nice for you that your grandparents were able to keep their minds sharp until the end.  Not all elderly are so blessed.  I know an elderly man who is slipping into dementia but is refusing help from anyone.  He has fallen for a phone scam and lost $500.  To keep him from losing more money to these jerks who would not stop calling, his wife had to change their phone number.  Now someone is calling him from Spain asking for more money and promising to send him a million dollar check.  For you to imply that elderly people who fall for such things have failed in their responsibility to "not be ignorant" shows your own ignorance. 

Maybe you should spend more time educating yourself and less time making snarky comments about others.  Your comment was rude and mean-spirited.  Didn't your grandparents teach you that if you have nothing nice to say, you shouldn't say anything at all?  Don't tell anyone

Nov 29, 2011 8:35PM

Typical elder abuse/exploitation a very prevalent and unreported crime. Most crimes of this type are committed by trusted friends or relatives. My wife's aunt was taken by a nephew. Do a little search research.



Nov 30, 2011 1:50PM
it's not just old people folks on the idiot list. Watch the checkout lines at the supermarket and see who is buying the Sun or national enquirer and let's not forget those that follow WWF. It is not all old folksSmile
Nov 30, 2011 3:54PM

Special TP?  Is that all?  Do we all need some sort of special TP to clean up the crap in this country?


So where does all this garbage start?  Poor morals and ethics?  Since when should we have to pay to have our names & phone numbers unlisted to be unmolested from unscrupulous predators?  Shouldn't it be the other way around?  Phone books and other listings have become the tools of crooks as well as honest people for quite awhile now, so when are those in charge going to wise up to that?  Or, have they already and decided to use and endorse it? 


Since when should people be able to sell other people lists of individuals or any information about them in any form with little to no compensation without obvious consent from them or for what purpose it will be used for now and in the future? 


An invasion of privacy is what it is. That's where much of this crap stems from.  So, where is our government in all of this?  Fighting it?  Or, behind it by basically, endorsing & sanctioning it by doing little to intelligently protect us from it?


911 isn't the only terrorist threat to this country.  The worst one is already looming here inside our borders invading our privacy and our pocket books isn't it?  Cameras on every street corner, satellites or invading our privacy by other means and barricading our borders aren't going to help as much as having intelligent leadership would is it?  A few intelligent pen strokes combined with common sense and good sensible laws would be less costly.


To clean the crap up, we need to start at the top and wipe down?  Much of our problems elsewhere in the world and here inside our country stem from our own backyards and our misguided leadership.  I guess it's too "big of a roll" that few can handle well from what we've seen and felt for quite some time now?  Or, maybe, they're just wiping in the wrong direction?

Nov 30, 2011 1:40PM

"Those who ordered were put on an "idiot" list"



Nov 30, 2011 1:44PM
Now they've gone and done it. I'm sure this will give some government regulator the idea to do just this.
Nov 30, 2011 12:32PM

Jerry Edwards - Police, Fire, Military, Roads, Justice - All legitimate Gov't endevours.

And so how much of the total Gov't budget do you think those are?

3/4, 2/3, 1/2?

Nope. Entitlements are 2/3 of Federal Spending.

So all the things everyone agrees Gov't should do is only 1/3 of their budget.

Federal Spending doubled since 2001. The top 5 Federal revenue years of all time (adjusted for inflation) happened in the last 6 years.

And yet they are going to bankrupt this country. Check out you will see how massive the problem is.

Every minute jobs go overseas where there are less regulations. Just look at Europe. Massive Gov't, massive regulations, huge taxes - and they are circling the toilet, ready to go down.

Face it, people like you have destroyed our countries future. You see any limitation on Gov't as the problem - but is Gov't twice as good in the last ten years? It's twice as large.

Gov't does not have the consent of the taxpayers. 2/3 of it's activity is in direct conflict with the idea that no other person is entitled to the labors of another man's back. That ended with slavery. Except for the liberal/progressive/communist/democrat/socialists. Look how well all the nanny state Gov't you love worked out in Cuba. Or USSR. Or North Korea.

It's time we remember that private industry run by the people made this country great, not the Gov't. 

Nov 30, 2011 3:40PM
Nov 29, 2011 9:38PM


Loved your rant.  So glad you support the fluorescent 'death bulbs'.  you know, those things that cause pollutants to be released during manufacture AND contain so much crap like mercury, etc., that you literally will be required by law (EPA regs. see the irony yet?) to call a haz-mat team to clean your floor if you drop one and it breaks.  And when the crap seeps into the groundwater, It is literally eternal and will cause it to be undrinkable forever.

I just love you 'superior' people (read 'lib-tards') that are so narrow minded that you not only don't look at both sides of an issue, you don't even look at the totality of your side.  Scary part is you not only vote, you reproduce too.

Nov 30, 2011 11:30AM

@  freedomfromthepress


I agree with all but the 'lib-tards' comment..  it doesn't represent any liberals that I know ..  liberals are usually more educated and more scientifically oriented..  therefore should be most against introducing more mercury .. the CFL bulbs are only to support big business by having their government friends pass laws to make use use their dangerous product..  use LEDs , get some effective competition back in the game...    I think that you are confusing liberals with something else if you are thinking "narrow minded" ..  I am so radically liberal it would probably concern you, but..  I believe in the MINIMUM government interference with my life AND absolutely the most personal freedom possible.. I would guess that you would be more restrictive than I am if we looked point by point..  I am very concerned with the radical "conservatives" that have taken over the republican party and would like to regulate every aspect of our lives, literally ....


Reminds me of Washington DC. Give me so I can get Elected. They have Millions of Dollars I have twenty a day I live on. Do we need a Whitehouse and Congress spending our Money?
Nov 30, 2011 5:20PM
Did anyone check the math on this? Over a million dollars for 12 people? That's over 83k per person scammed.
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