Soliciting the dead

Published: Feb. 28, 2012 at 3:40 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 29, 2012 at 1:01 PM EST
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WMC TV - It's taken a good 13 years to get over Madison. God blessed her parents David and Lisa Barron with their special-needs daughter for four-and-a-half years. Unable to walk, talk or breathe on her own, Madison Kate Barron died in 1999. 13 years since her death, the Barrons continue to receive solicitations -- modeling offers, prom dress catalogs, college financial aid appeals -- each in Madison's name.

"It's always just on the right time schedule as far as what she would have been doing at that time in her life," said Lisa Barron.

Our investigation determined Madison's name, address and birth date were likely sold to mass-marketers after Lisa signed up to receive free picture frames as part of a baby food company's promotion. The mass-marketers stored Madison's information and tracked it in order to send age-appropriate offers and sales pitches to the Barron home.

According to Senny Boone, Senior Vice President for Corporate & Social Responsibility of the Direct Marketing Association, it is considered a "best practice" for mass marketers to scrub their customer files against state death records and the Social Security Death Index.

Boone said the marketers who have solicited the Barrons' late daughter have acted unprofessionally, ignoring one of the industry's basic procedures.

"It is not the right thing to do," Boone said, "and secondly, it would be a waste of resources to go and try to solicit individuals that can't respond."

Cynthia Hampton, credit counselor and privacy expert with ClearPoint Credit Counseling Solutions, said mass-marketers are more worried about mass money than about a family's loss.

"We're talking about a trillion dollar a year business," Hampton said. "So to offend 100,000 people, but make a trillion dollars? Money is what it's all about."

The Barrons said at least one of the solicitors apologized when its marketers learned they had solicited the family's late daughter. The solicitor promised to remove Madison's name from its files, the Barrons said.

Parents can do that themselves with these resources:

* ALL CLEAR ID Hampton said parents can register their children's information securely on to eliminate junk mail and e-mail solicitations until age 18.

* DECEASED DO NOT CONTACT LIST Created by the Direct Marketing Association, this list allows families to register deceased loved ones' names, addresses, phone numbers and e-mail addresses. DMA members are required to scrub their files against this list, and non-members may also check their contacts against it.

* DMA CHOICE ( Also managed by the DMA, allows consumers to opt out of pre-approved credit offers, magazine offers, direct mail and e-mail solicitations. Parents may use the site to prohibit direct solicitations to their children.

"Once someone registers on, their file is updated and scrubbed every 30 days," said Boone. "If a marketer solicits a prohibited file, we can pursue both DMA members and non-members (for compliance)."

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