SWFL suspects indicted in magazine fraud that cost victims $300M nationwide

Nearly a dozen suspects in Southwest Florida, 60 in total, were indicted in a long-term nationwide scheme to steal money from seniors through magazine subscriptions. It’s being considered the largest elder fraud scheme in the United States.

The men and women involved are accused of posing as magazine sales companies. They called thousands of seniors, offering to reduce monthly costs of their existing subscriptions or to cancel subscriptions for a fee.

“That’s really sad because a lot of seniors are on limited income and don’t have any way to make up that money that they lose,” Margaret Hergenhahn said.

That resulted in 150,000 victims losing $300 million dollars collectively over the past 20 years, and some of Southwest Florida’s own are behind bars.

“I just think older people are vulnerable to trust people,” Hergenhahn said.

“They don’t understand that there are people out there who do not have their best interest at heart,” Al Young said. “I don’t think that there’s too many people seniors or not that can afford to be ripped off for no reason.”

Rich Kolko, WINK News’ Safety & Security Specialist, says seniors are more susceptible to crimes like this one.

“Some of these elderly people were still getting a lot of magazines,” Kolko said. “They probably wanted to cancel them, and this company called and said, for a fee, they could cancel all of them at once.”

Kolko told us most of those victims will not get the money they lost back. If they do, it will be once law enforcement takes everything the scammers bought with the stolen money, sell it and give the money to the victims.

He also said people should look into suspicious calls to avoid falling victim.

“The best way you can verify any call that comes in is simply get the name of the company, hang up the phone, look up the number yourself and call that company,” Kolko said.

Reporter:Breana Ross
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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