An 82-year-old Edmonds woman gets a notice of delinquency, though she’s not past due on any of her bills. Who could have sent it?

Share story

At 82, Janet Reiman is of the generation where you not only balance your own checkbook, but it’s a point of pride to have no debts and pay all your bills on time.

“I keep careful track of all my accounts,” Reiman, of Edmonds, says. “That’s what made this embarrassing.”

This past week, when the mail carrier came to Reiman’s Edmonds home, he was toting a letter block-stamped in huge red type: “NOTICE OF DELINQUENCY.” The return window said “Office of Records, Washington Area Assessment — ***Immediate Response Requested***.”

“My heart skipped a few beats,” Reiman says. “Did I forget to pay my property taxes? Then I thought: My mailman probably thinks I’m a deadbeat.”

Like I said, she’s got high standards. Much higher than the charlatans who sent this letter.

Reiman was concerned, and when she opened the envelope found an invoice marked “PAST DUE.” The invoice asked Reiman for anywhere from $25 to $500 to make up for her past-due balance. But the attached letter began like this:

“This NOTICE OF DELINQUENCY has been sent to you because the Republican Party has contacted you multiple times to ask for your support of our 2016 campaign … But we have not heard back from you and time is running out.”

Ha ha, false alarm. It’s just your Grand Old Party, trolling for money.

Reiman says nothing in the letter is true — the party didn’t contact her at all, and she wasn’t ever a donating member. Ironically, she has sided with Republicans at times, voting twice for George W. Bush, for example.

Political fundraising mail is habitually filled with hype and fear. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen a mailing that so actively tries to con, or at least confuse, potential backers. Including by fabricating an institution in the envelope return window.

With Reiman’s permission I forwarded the mailing to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the post office’s law-enforcement arm. A spokesman said they had reports of the same mailing from other parts of the country.

The inspection service said by email Friday that it is “currently reviewing the complaint, but no determinations have been made.”

The agency’s website says sending a fundraising appeal disguised as an invoice is illegal.

“Title 39, United States Code, Section 3001, makes it illegal to mail a solicitation in the form of an invoice, bill, or statement of account due unless it conspicuously bears a notice on its face that it is, in fact, merely a solicitation,” the agency’s website says. “This disclaimer must be in very large (at least 30-point) type and must be in boldface capital letters in a color that contrasts prominently with the background against which it appears.”

None of these disclaimers is in the Republican National Committee’s pretend delinquency notice. The heading of the letter and the rest of the content does read like a pretty typical fundraising appeal, though.

Calls and emails to the RNC got no response.

Who knows, maybe the whole thing was an attempt at a joke? You’re delinquent, Americans, unless you’re invested in the Republican Party. Get it?

But Reiman said because there’s no clear explanation that the notice is fake, some people who don’t read it closely or don’t have all their faculties may get bilked.

You’d think with Citizens United unleashing unlimited money, they wouldn’t need to dupe “little old ladies” for cash, she said.

But actually the political money race is becoming more rife with cons and scams than ever. Last year Politico’s Kenneth Vogel (formerly of our own News Tribune in Tacoma), documented the rise of right-wing “scam PACs,” which solicit donations from mom-and-pop conservatives but then “mostly pad the pockets of the consultants who run them.” The Ben Carson campaign for president was revealed to have poured almost all its small-dollar contributions into a handful of direct-mail fundraising and telemarketing firms, rather than actual campaigning.

Now the committee central to national Republican leadership is trying to flimflam its own supporters into thinking they owe the group money.

“What I don’t understand is, are they really this desperate?” Reiman wondered.

Desperate, no. Greed is the condition at work here.