A few months ago we wrote about a worldwide scam involving a so-called French psychic named Maria Duval. This fraud has victimized millions of people, many of them elderly. We shared this story in this blog article from last February based on reporting done by CNN.
Because many of our clients are caring for aging parents, we felt our clients and radio listeners should know about this criminal enterprise that investigators say has raked in an astonishing $20o million over the past 20 years. You need to be informed because your aging parent or friend may have been a victim.
Now here’s an update on this ongoing investigation, and it’s good news. According to this new article on the website CNN.com, “The U.S. government says it has finally put an end to what investigators call one of the longest running mail frauds in history.” Tragically, says CNN, “the scheme has preyed on sick, elderly and vulnerable Americans” for more than a decade.
The CNN report states that millions of Americans and Canadians (plus many in a dozen other countries) received what appeared to be personalized letters from Duval offering psychic guidance and special talismans to solve all their personal, financial and physical problems. All they had to do was send money – amounts which quickly mounted into the millions. The CNN investigation discovered that the scheme behind the name “Maria Duval” actually involved a massive international business network. The U.S. Postal Service called this “one of the largest cases of consumer fraud the agency has ever handled” with more than a million victims. CNN says, “Postal inspectors say the Duval letters are mass produced and the trinkets are worthless pieces of plastic from China.”
This insidious scam also preyed on the fears of people suffering from poor health or poverty. One woman quoted in an earlier CNN article said that, when she stopped sending money, the letters from Duval became more sinister and threatening. “When I wrote to say I didn’t have that kind of cash, the letters got even more frightening,” she said at the time. “I was so scared I couldn’t eat or sleep worrying whether I’d be hit by more bad luck. I was convinced I’d need further heart surgery and this time I might not survive.”
The U.S. government first tried to shut down the Maria Duval fraud in 2004, and has tried multiple times since to kill off what experts call a “sprawling business network.” Finally this week the injunctions designed to stop the letters from coming has been made permanent. That’s good news, but it may not end the scam. CNN reports, “Even in the U.S., a criminal investigation into the potential ringleaders is still ongoing. And since many of the key players appear to be far out of the U.S. government’s reach, the saga is far from over.”
If you’re actively involved in caring for a loved one who is aging, you need to be particularly aware of the danger of frauds like the Maria Duval scam that target the elderly. We can help. With our many years of experience in dealing with thousands of clients, we can provide you with helpful ways to safeguard your loved ones resources, and your own.
What about your own retirement plans? Are you confident that you can protect your assets in retirement while avoiding becoming a burden to your loved ones? We can help you develop a plan, called a LifePlan, to give you a blueprint for your future years, including your financial needs, your medical coverage, your legal affairs, your housing options and your family relationships. To start the process, we invite you to attend a free LifePlanning Seminar, scheduled frequently at locations throughout the area. Click on the Upcoming Events tab for dates, times and free registration. We’ll look forward to working with you to plan for a secure and fruitful future!
(originally reported at www.cnn.com)