Protecting the vulnerable this winter

New statistics from National Trading Standards make painful reading for the legitimate direct marketing industry. Apparently, the number of names on the so-called ‘Sucker List’ have jumped by 40,000 since July to 240,000 people in total.

The Sucker Lists are files sold by disreputable organisations comprising names and contact details of consumers who have previously fallen victim to scams and are consequently most likely to be suckered again. The average age of the people on the list is 74 which sends clear signs as to the vulnerability of some of these individuals. It is estimated that sucker lists have generated £13 million worth of spoils for unscrupulous firms who pray on victims with bogus offers, dodgy prize draws and false investment schemes.

Whilst there is very little that responsible direct marketing practitioners and brands can do to counter these cowboy operators we can pull together as an industry and shine the spotlight onto ourselves to maintain best practice and where possible go over and above the call of duty. In operational terms this means spending a little more time on data hygiene. As a provider of suppression products, of course we would say this! But actually its less about spending more money on screening goneaways and deceased and more about understanding the provenance of the data within your database: where has it come from and what is the profile of the person? If a record looks suspect and presents as a potentially vulnerable individual it would be best to flag that record as a do not mail/call. Inevitably some legitimate customers will be lost but better this than lose the ability to create genuine relationships with long term prospects in the future through increased legislation. With one of the busiest direct mailing periods coming up, by looking closely at our planned campaigns we can make difference this winter.