Drowning in Junk Mail Book Club – A Deal with the Devil by Blake Ellis, and Melanie Hicken

About 4 years to the day I am writing this review, a CNN reporter contacted me about my junk mail blog. I was already knee deep in trying to stop the avalanche of junk mail that was arriving everyday. Blake Ellis, and Melanie Hicken were just starting what would become a deep dive, into the rabbit hole, that is the direct mail industrial complex. 

None of us could have imagined the wild journey they would go on, when they stated asking me and other victims about junk mail. How it was effecting their families, and who was behind it all. 

I sent them a huge box with a wide sample of the junk mail I was receiving at the time. Including this horrible little travel clock from National Association of Blind Veterans a project of National Federation of the Blind,

National Association of Blind Veterans a project of National Federation of the Blind
Travel clock from National Association of Blind Veterans a project of National Federation of the Blind. The face is a piece of cheap copy paper.

and this “Bury the Death Tax Petition” from Frontiers of Freedom

Frontiers of Freedom
Vivid imagery of the Grim Reaper is used on the envelope for a Frontiers of Freedom mailpiece about the “Death Tax”

Their research resulted in 2 wonderful series of articles for CNN. The first was about international scam ring that runs the Maria Duval psychic scam. The second is about PacNet. They were a company that specialized in processing checks for scammers, who could not use a regular bank.
Maria Duval article. 
PacNet articles
2 year follow up with Maria Duval


That brings us to Blake and Melanie’s new book A Deal with the Devil: The Dark and Twisted True Story of One of the Biggest Cons in History.

For the book they have expanded on the original articles. You ride along with them, as they chase down each clue to connect the crazy web of scammers who produce and run the multi-national scam that is behind Maria Duval. You will meet real psychics, fake psychics, shady business men, and their shadier lawyers. Travel to exotic locations like a PO box in a dusty Nevada town, and huge fence surrounding an estate in France where Maria might live.

They tell the story of one victim and her daughter. Really, it is the story of all of the victims and their families. The tragic play book is the same, once a loved one gets sucked into junk mail scams. 

One of the people that they talked to that I found to be the most interesting, was the copywriter from Canada. He was so good he wrote letters for multiple Maria Duval franchises. In his mind, he had an outline of the person he was writing the letter to.

SPOILER ALERT: It’s your mom.

A very sad moment was during the US Postal Inspectors investigation. They dumpster dived at the office that processes Maria Duval’s scam mail. They found all the talismans, locks of hair, outlines of hands, that had been sent back to Maria, in the trash. The people who processed the mail would pull out the check and all the rest would be tossed out. Personal letters begging Maria for help, were a speed bump for them to get to the money.

psychic junk mail
4 examples of psychic scam junk mail. Maria Duval letter on the left. 

If you like true crime, psychic scams, international crime rings, and elder financial abuse, This book is for you.

If you want to support in-depth investigative reporting please buy this book. Blake Ellis, and Melanie Hicken put years into this story. They are so lucky that their editor let them put all the time, and effort in to this story. When they started, it was about a person who was a ghost. Many people thought Maria Duval wasn’t a real person.

If you or a loved one are receiving junk mail like the kind in this book, please read my guide on how to put your mailbox on lockdown. Do not let junk mail ruin your family like it did mine.

I received a free copy of this book to review it. 

Ted Cruz is summoning people, to send him money

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Ted Cruz is back at it again with deceptive junk mail. This time he is sending a fake summons to people in Travis county Texas.

Sean Owen posted this mailpiece his grandmother received on Twitter:

 

This mailpiece is very illegal. It is extremely deceptive and misleading. It is clearly intended to confuse an 88 year old woman. This is classic elder financial abuse through the mail.

If you get a mailpiece like this please contact the election board of the county that is mentioned.

File a complaint with the Texas Attorney General

File a complaint with the US Postal Inspectors

To get off of Ted Cruz’s mailing list call (713) 353-4330

If you or a loved one is getting a lot of junk mail like this, please read my guide to putting your mailbox on lock down.


 

The New York Times has chimed in of this deceptive mailpiece. The FEC said that it doesn’t break any of their rules.

Texas has a law Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA) but in order for this mailpiece to qualify it has to be selling something. If you live in Texas and received a letter like this one contact your state represintive and ask them to emend the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA) to include mailpieces like this one.