Miller obtains injunction barring Direct Response Advertising Inc. from sending misleading psychic mail solicitations to Iowans
(DES MOINES, Iowa) An Iowa judge today issued a temporary injunction against a New York-based psychic mailing operation after Attorney General Tom Miller filed a consumer fraud lawsuit against the company and its principals.
Polk County District Court Judge Karen A. Romano entered a temporary injunction against Direct Response Advertising Inc., of New York, New York, its owners, David Vogel and Michael Geisinger, and Lee Moorhead, the purported “psychic and mystic” featured in the mailings.
The injunction bans misleading mail solicitations to Iowans and forbids the defendants from sharing customer lists containing the names of Iowans with other marketers while the lawsuit is pending.
Miller filed the lawsuit after Iowans concerned that the company was preying upon the elderly forwarded the solicitations to the Consumer Protection Division.
“Prompted by these concerned citizens, we looked into this operation and filed a lawsuit alleging that the defendants misled and cheated Iowans, particularly older Iowans,” Miller said. “Our lawsuit seeks to stop these operators permanently in Iowa, and return money to Iowa victims.”
The solicitation letters were from Lee Moorhead, touted as “the world’s preeminent psychic.” The highly-personalized letters express Moorhead’s “deep personal interest” in the recipient – typically an Iowan over seventy years old – and promise to use Moorhead’s supposed powers to deliver wealth, health, and other tangible benefits, all for a modest fee.
“Any vulnerable Iowan who responded by sending a check would be set up for more financial losses,” Miller said. “Not only would Direct Response follow up with other deceptive appeals for money, but it would sell the Iowan’s name to other marketers who might have similar bad intentions.”
As an example of the defendants’ deceptive solicitations, the lawsuit referred to one mass-mailing in which Lee Moorhead refers to each recipient as her “dearest friend,” claims to have intimate knowledge of the person’s situation, and congratulates the person on the staggering good fortune that Moorhead is about to bring about. All the victim has to do is pay Moorhead a “one time guidance fee” of about $40. Although the letter contains the statement that it’s “for entertainment purposes only,” according to Miller those words appear in almost unreadably tiny print at the bottom of a page.
“While many of us would dismiss such claims out of hand, there are vulnerable Iowans, many of them elderly, who can be exploited in this way,” Miller added. “We are sending the message to those targeting older Iowans that we’re watching and it’s just not worth the risk.”
Miller noted that the mailings also urge the recipient not to tell anyone about Moorhead’s special attention. “That part of the scheme is particularly troubling,” Miller said. “By urging secrecy, the mailings seek to cut the victims off from family or friends who might otherwise help them see through the deception and stop the financial losses.”
According to Miller, Direct Response acknowledges receiving payments from more than 100 Iowans in a recent 16-month period from Moorhead solicitations alone. Miller said these losses may be the tip of the iceberg, since the company has been in operation for more than twenty years and is known to have solicited under names other than Moorhead.
Last year, Consumer Protection Division investigators learned of a 91-year-old Eastern Iowa widow who had almost gone broke sending checks in response to similar solicitation mailings from other companies. Each mailing claimed a special desire to help the elderly recipient overcome financial and health problems – for a fee.
Miller cautions Iowans to be wary of personalized mailings from strangers claiming they want to help, and asking for money. In particular, caregivers of older Iowans are urged to look out for predatory mailing or telemarketing campaigns making too-good-to-be-true promises. “Losses can mount quickly once fraudulent operators identify a vulnerable victim, because lists of susceptible individuals get bought and sold,” Miller warned. “Keeping the feeding frenzy from ever getting underway is vital.”
For more information or to file a complaint, contact the Consumer Protection Division through the Attorney General’s website at www.IowaAttorneyGeneral.gov or email directly to firstname.lastname@example.org. Consumers can also call the Consumer Protection Division at 515-281-5926, or toll free, at 1-888-777-4590 (available outside the Des Moines area only).