Telemarketing can be defined as a method that utilizes direct marketing techniques where marketing and sales persons persuade prospective consumers to buy goods and services from their companies or organizations. Telemarketing is usually done through physical or face to face negotiation, web conferencing or even via the phone but the use of telephone is the most common means (Bendremer, 2003).
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It is a process that has drawn a lot of negative criticism due to the fraud aspects associated with it. There are various telemarketing scams that faces people in the world with the most affected being the poor and the elderly.
This piece of work discusses in depth the telemarketing scams against the elderly giving insight into the problem of the study, context of the problem, the problem statement, research questions, significance of the study, organization of the study, research design and methodology, recommendations and conclusion after which the references are cited.
The Problem of the Study
This study revolves around scams or problems faced by the elderly people through telemarketing. Telemarketing should be a process of enhancing and promoting sales in a company or organization through fair means but it has been associated with a lot of illegal and unjust deeds which usually results in exploitation of people especially the elderly and the poor as they end up either paying too much for the goods or services or even sometimes not getting any of the products or services they ordered for even after paying for them.
Telemarketing scams involves criminal activities undertaken in a manner that deceives the victims by persuading them to make wrong decisions regarding purchase of goods and services or even making charitable contributions that they would otherwise not make without the solicitation and in the long run they are defrauded and left exploited.
Context of the Problem
Most of the telemarketing scams occur in business environments where people have the desire to attain the best goods and services at a convenient or affordable cost in order to satisfy their needs. It could also be where people may wish to invest their monies in projects that help them save and attain benefits for instance through interests or bonuses out of their investments.
Telemarketing scams take various forms for instance pyramid schemes which promises people lots of returns on their investment after which the schemes close down and the people can no longer retrieve their money, advance fee fraud with a promise that the people involved will latter get some offers for example lottery prizes or loans from the government, charity fraud, poor representation of the goods and services offered by companies hence wrong making of orders by consumers , bank assisted telemarketing fraud and cramming, overpayment fraud and pre-acquired account telemarketing fraud and cramming among others.
The Problem Statement
Telemarketing scams against the elderly is very common in today’s world. This is because the poor and the elderly are viewed to be very vulnerable and easy to buy the lies put forth by the telemarketers and sales people. This has led to loss of the money or savings that the elderly have through the shoddy forms of scams in the telemarketing field as discussed above.
Telemarketing scams involves decisive persuasion to purchase some goods or services or being informed of exciting prizes mostly through phone calls. Those involved in exercising telemarketing scams target all people irrespective of their race, gender, age, education level but most elderly people get themselves falling victims due to their inability to gauge the situation and make wise decisions regarding their actions.
Telemarketing scams works through various ways that may convince the elderly people in the society for instance through cold calls where the scammers get a persons phone number from a telephone directory or sucker list and contact them soliciting them to make purchases, direct mail where letters or cards are used to inform people that they have won prizes and contests after which some money is supposed to be sent before receiving the prizes.
Persuasive sales skills and tactics are used to deceive the victims. Broadcast and print media are also used as means of perpetrating telemarketing scams though advertisements after which people call for more details and in the process they are defrauded (Friedman 2001).
The following are the research questions that will be used to tackle the various aspects that are associated with the topic of study, telemarketing scams against the elderly.
- What is the background information of telemarketing?
- Who are the most victims of telemarketing scams?
- What are some of the forms of telemarketing scams?
- What are the hooks used by telemarketing scammers?
- What are some of the ways of dealing with or avoiding telemarketing scams?
- Is there any law that governs telemarketing scams issues?
Significance of the Study
The importance of this study is to gather information that will help us have a better understanding of telemarketing and the aspects surrounding it including the ways in which it is perpetrated, the victims of the scams, laws and rules governing telemarketing and most importantly recommendations on ways of dealing with this problem.
The study also helps us get a clear image of how the telemarketing scams work and the extent to which it has been practiced through looking into what has been discovered by others.
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Organization of the Study
This study is carried out in a systematic manner from the process of data collection to the final process of their presentation. The research findings are presented in an organized manner through answering of the formulated research questions which help us understand the various concepts that relate to the topic of study.
The research paper gives us an introduction, and then discusses the major findings, gives some recommendations and a conclusion in regard to the topic of study.
Research Design and Methodology
According to Goddard and Melville (2004), Research is the planned, systematic and structured search for knowledge in a specific field. It could be in the science or arts fields. It requires the application of different research designs and methodology in order to come up with adequate information regarding the specific research topic.
Different primary and secondary data sources are usually utilized for instance people reports through interviews or use of questionnaires, articles from journals, conference proceedings, magazines and newspapers, organization’s reports, textbooks, theses and dissertations, the internet among others.
All the above named sources will be utilized in carrying out this research to ensure that the final product is as comprehensive and informative as possible. Research could be qualitative, quantitative or descriptive depending on the characteristic of the data to be collected. In this research, qualitative and descriptive research aspects will be utilized to bring out the findings.
Qualitative research helps the researcher to explain the ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions for instance in this particular research, it will help in answering questions like why the elderly are the most targeted by those who perpetrate telemarketing scams, how the aspect is perceived for instance in terms of measures taken against the telemarketing scammers among other factors that cannot be discussed quantitatively.
This design employs aspects like interactive interviewing where people are given a chance to describe their experiences on the given phenomenon. This will apply in this research as the elderly will be able to explain what they have experienced including how they fell prey of the ordeal and how it was perpetrated.
Observation is also emphasized in qualitative research design where verbal and non verbal communication is equally important. Observation entails the researcher being part of or within the population or sample of the study where he or she observes details that could be helpful in the compilation of the particular research (Neill: 1).
Descriptive research design is also a very good approach to research especially where a general overview of the phenomenon is required. It entails observation and description of the behavior of the respondents without necessarily having to interfere with them in any way (Mitchell and Jolley: 204).
This will work well in this research as the researcher can be able to gauge the effects of the telemarketing scams on the elderly for instance the changes that can be noted as a result of the ordeal for instance where the elderly are conned some property. The combination of both the qualitative research design and descriptive research design will therefore enhance the completeness of the research.
There will be use of both primary and secondary sources of information, both paper and electronic, in the process of reviewing other literature materials that are in line with the specific topic of study, Telemarketing Scams against the Elderly. Survey method will also be used where some questionnaires and interview schedules will be issued and the information gathered be used as a basis of the research findings.
Questionnaires will be developed based on the assumptions made from analyzed literature on the effects of telemarketing scams against the elderly and also the research objectives as stipulated by the research questions.
The questionnaires will take two modes, one specifically meant to be answered by the elders while the other for those who live with or take care of the elders and whose opinion on the telemarketing scams is deemed essential in compilation of the research project. They will then be administered to the respective respondents after which information collected will be compiled and analyzed.
The questionnaires could be presented at the physical location of the respondent, faxed or even mailed and all these means will be applied in this research to ensure that a majority of respondents are reached making the sample as representative as possible. Administering of interviews is the other approach in the survey method of research and they are undertaken using interview schedules as guides to avoid losing focus.
Interviews could take the face to face mode or telephone calls. The advantages of personal or face to face interviewing is the ability of the researcher to obtain excellent data as he or she is able to control the situation hence ensure maximum cooperation and minimum refusal rates, it allows for longer and in depth acquisition of information, and the response is of high quality as the interviewer or researcher is able to clarify some aspects that may seem complex to the respondents and the respondents are also able to interact freely with the interviewer.
Personal interviewing is also good as it allows the interviewer to make some observations that could contribute positively to the research for instance the non verbal signals from the respondents. Despite the advantages, personal interviewing is very expensive especially in terms of traveling cost, time and materials needed.
The data could also be affected by the researcher’s biasness as he or she may just take in what has been said in his or her side of the research. Telephone interviewing on the other had is less costly as compared to face to face interviewing and takes a shorter period of data collection. There are however less chances of response, does not work well in sensitive issues and is biased against those who do not have access to telephones.
In this research, I consider the personal interviewing method to be appropriate due the advantages mentioned above and also due to the fact that the elderly could have problems in understanding and explaining some concepts over the telephone and being with them physically would work better. Most of them could also be having problems with telephone operations.
The interview schedules will be constructed in a simple manner in terms of the structure of the questions to be asked to enhance easy understanding by the elderly and hence appropriate answers that would aid in the research. The interviews being face to face, will involve the researcher physically visiting the elderly to their places of residence or any other place for instance care facilities for the elderly.
The appropriateness of the survey method is the fact that it allows for standardization of measurement where the same information could be attained from the respondent, it enhances the process of analyzing the needs of the research and the data collected is used to compliment the existing data from secondary sources and most importantly the need for uniqueness which is achieved as the researcher is able to gather information that may not be available from other sources. (Experiment Resources 2008).
The survey method is cost effective in regard to the data collection although it is not explicit in showing the cause and effect relationships associated with the collected data.
The demographics (focus groups) in this research consist of the elderly men and women as from the age of 65 years. A purposive sampling method will therefore be applied being biased towards the aspect of telemarketing scams as it affects the elderly as opposed to the effects on the whole population which include the youths and the middle aged.
The sample will include a total of two hundred elderly people, hundred of them being male while a hundred are female. The sample is representative of the whole population and the results from them will be taken as all inclusive. The data used as a basis of compiling this research paper will be obtained from other researches that have been carried out in regard to the aspect of telemarketing scams against the elderly.
The mode of data collection is usually determined by the availability of time, the cost to be incurred, the topic of concern and the questions for which answers are required, the population of study and the characteristic of the sample selected among other considerations. Primary data will be obtained from the questionnaires and interview schedules and be supplemented with data collected from secondary sources.
The data will then be presented in tabular form, or using charts and graphs. It is from the data that analysis will be made based on the findings. A conclusion will be drawn from the findings and some recommendations in regard to the aspect of telemarketing scams suggested for utilization by people especially the vulnerable and also for further research that may be carried out in relation to the topic of study.
What Is The Background Information Of Telemarketing And Telemarketing Scams?
The use of telemarketing as a means of enhancing sales has been used since the mid of the twentieth century. Telemarketing can be classified as either business-to-business or business-to-consumer depending on the result expected. Telemarketing is a concept that has been faced with controversial arguments and a lot of negative critics.
Although there are very many lawful companies and organizations that used telephone as a means of marketing their products and services, there are other companies that take advantage of the situation to con the community and hence many individuals, organizations and businesses have found themselves losing a lot of money through decisive telemarketers who utilize criminal skills in combination with sales skills to rob people.
Unethical practices such as telephone slamming are used where a client’s telephone service is switched without his or her consent. Technology is also utilized to perpetrate the evil deeds or fraud in telemarketing for example use of robocalls which are automated telephone calls which incorporates computerized aspects like autodialing and pre-recorded messages in sales pitch with an aim of deceiving and convincing the consumers by showing them the seriousness of the information they are communicating (Hoffman and McGinley 2010).
Who Are the Most Victims of Telemarketing Scams and Why?
Telemarketers target a variety of people who seem to have the potential of making them wealthier through their unlawful means. Some of the targets are senior citizens who have large amounts of income and investments and are usually very polite to hung up on phone, aged people who are usually naive and trusting and hence are less likely to disagree with what they are told and also are less likely to report instances of fraud due to lack of knowledge on the procedure to follow and the disappointment they get after learning that they have been scammed.
The scammers involved in telemarketing also believe that the elderly are poorly informed, socially isolated and are not alert on what is happening around them and often rely on traditional attitudes such as politeness and being good to all people hence it is difficult for them to suspect any form of fraud.
All in all the elderly form the majority of the telemarketing scams victims due to their inability to identify or recognize fraud elements in time and their lack of reporting of the cases. They are also deemed to have a lot of disposable income for example 77 percent of the disposable income in the United States belongs to the elderly and hence they are the main targets of the telemarketing scammers.
They may opt not to report the cases for many reasons for instance, the feeling of shame or embarrassment and the fear of being viewed as though they cannot take good care of themselves which may in the long run lead to their placement in nursing homes for provision of care, ignorance of the existence of support resources and services and the means to contact them or even the feeling of self blame.
In few instances where they report fraud cases, they are unable to defend themselves well as they make poor witnesses due to their age which affects their memory capacity preventing them from reporting the incidences adequately as they cannot remember all the details concerning the incidence.
According to Sharpe (2004), it is approximated that $100 billion and more are taken from the United States people through fraud despite the efforts put forward by law enforcers to deal with the situation.
The elderly, 60 years and above, are the majority (about 56 percent) of the victims due to their vulnerability. Telemarketing fraud takes up approximately $40 billion from the United States victims every year with 37 percent being from the elderly. Repeated victimization of the elderly by the telemarketers is usually viewed as the central point or basis of unlawful practices of telemarketing.
What Are Some Of The Forms Of Telemarketing Scams?
Telemarketing is exercised through various means most of which are illegal. It has been associated with scams that take forms like pyramid schemes and overpricing of products and services, use of charity attributes, lottery prizes and contests, investments among others.
The various forms works under the principle of deliberately and strategically persuading people through decisive means and promising the victims of exciting and attractive goods and services or even other benefits that are in reality either not important as they put them to be, are not present, or are misrepresented for instance in terms of quality, quantity, cost or the benefits associated with them (Kelly 2003).
Lotteries and Prizes
This involves informing people that they have chances of winning or they have already won large amounts of money or attractive prizes. The fraud part comes in where the victim is requested to provide some money for payments of expenses incurred in delivering either the money or prize won.
The expenses could be in the form of processing fee, transportation or shipping cost or even taxation fee. In most cases the prizes or money is never delivered and if received it is usually way below the money spent in retrieving it and hence the victim is usually left exploited and hopeless.
The scammers in telemarketing field also use charity as an item to attract people in their deeds. They may use similar names to those used by well known charity organizations and associations and pretend that they require money to fund their charity activities and hence gain sympathy from the community.
The scammers usually request for donations to charitable and religious organizations that do not exist pretending to be having a strong will and desire to help others. Since people especially the elderly are touched by those who help others, they offer their money which benefits the scammers.
Most elderly persons have got a fixed income amounts as they are not working and hence have no regular incoming money. They therefore find it necessary to invest the little they have so as to increase its value and most importantly to be able to cater for their daily basic needs.
The scammers usually take this advantage of their situation and persuade them to invest in deals which will in return offer high rates of returns like stocks and bonds, real estates and annuities. The high rates of interesting are usually tempting and attractive and the elderly get themselves in the deals and lose their money/ investments as the companies are usually not in existence and therefore they do not have any means of following up.
Mortgages and Loans
Telemarketing may be used as a means of robbing the elderly of their money through loans and mortgages. It occurs where the scammers come in to provide loans and mortgages but with a hidden agenda of defrauding people.
The elderly may need loans to cater for their health and other issues and they may be offered loans with high interest rates and very short repayment periods that makes them unable to honor their promises and in so doing their houses are taken over to repay the loans.
The telemarketing scammers usually use travel packages as a way of attracting people where they promise free or law cost means that in the long run end up costing too much due to other hidden costs that go along with them. The victims end up paying even thrice as much as they had expected as some information had been restricted and they only come to realize of the total cost when it is too late to take any action.
What Are The Hooks Used By Telemarketing Scammers?
People that perpetrate various forms of fraud share common characteristics and make use of similar elements. The first step is usually to gain trust and confidence from the victims through their allure. They do this by using company names that are similar to those of well known and trusted organizations or by pretending to have concerns for the elderly and the poor in the society.
After gaining trust from the elderly, they now create impressions that the victims have won some prizes or are lucky to attain some offers emphasizing the fact that such chances are usually rare and therefore should be received gladly. They then persuade the victims to make immediate decisions regarding the purchase of goods and services without much considerations or consultations with others to avoid chances of them not falling into their traps.
The telemarketing scammers also insist that the offers and prizes are only meant for the elderly and so they should never discuss about the others. This increases the secrecy level of the unlawful transactions and reduces chances of discovery by other people like family members hence facilitating the occurrence of the scams.
The telemarketing scammers hook themselves to some aspects like investments, charities, recovery scams, travel packages and prize offers among others using the above decisive ways (Federal State Commission 2009).
Is There Any Law That Governs Telemarketing Scams Issues?
Telemarketing is a well known process in the business field and various rules and regulations have been set to govern the practices involved. Also due to the existence of scams associated with telemarketing especially among the elderly, there are several crime prevention programs that have been established through combination of efforts by different agencies and associations.
For instance the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Community Services Administration, the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), and the National Sheriffs, association came together in 1988 and agreed to cooperate in efforts aimed at reducing acts of criminal victimization and unwarranted fear crime that affects the elderly persons in the society.
TRIAD is also a project that helps fight crime against the elderly like telemarketing scams by acting as an advocacy and provision of advisory service to the elderly. It acts as a means through which the elderly people link with the law enforcers through communication of the information received from the elderly and also airing their grievances (Ebersole, Hess and Luggen 2004).
Horvath et al. (2009), asserts that the increasing incidences of abuse of telemarketing process towards the end of the 1980s and beginning of 1990s necessitated the passing of laws to address the telemarketing practices by the Congress. The telephone consumer protection Act was enacted in 1991 which operates on the principle that improper use of telemarketing can be a source of intrusion of individual privacy.
The telephone consumer protection Act required that the federal communication commission (FCC) to make rules that would protect the privacy of telephone users from getting telephone decisive persuasions that they are likely fall prey to. Apart from this Act, the Congress also passed the telemarketing and consumer fraud and abuse prevention Act in 1994.
The Act contains rules and regulations that define and prohibit deceptive and abusive telemarketing practices. It also establishes a national ‘Do Not Call’ registry in which individuals and companies involved in telemarketing are required to create and maintain a list of the various telephone users who are against being called by the telemarketers.
According to anonymous (2005), there exists various corporate fraud task forces that aim at reducing the criminal activities carried out against the elderly people. The forces include; council on white collar crime, securities and commodities force that deals with crimes or fraud in the field of stock market, and bank fraud working group that is involved with fraud associated with bank issues among others.
Some states also have laws that govern telemarketing procedures. The laws are usually very strict surpassing the federal law. There are also bills that specifically deal with telemarketing and the different aspects associated with it.
The telemarketing fraud and seniors protection Act for example protects the public especially the elderly against telemarketing scams and advocates for educational campaigns that are aimed at enlightening the elderly people on the issues surrounding telemarketing hence keeping them aware of the fraud elements. This helps them to protect themselves against decisive telemarketing scams (Warner and Leonard 2009).
The Telemarketing Sales Rule
The telemarketing sales rule requires that individuals or companies disclose certain information to their clients prohibits misrepresentations of products or services, sets some requirements and prohibitions that govern telemarketing practices and transactions, and provide detailed requirements for records keeping.
Some of the prohibited practices under the telemarketing sales rule (TSR) include, misleading statements made by telemarketers and other sales persons which are aimed at making the informed recipients to make purchases of products or services or even contributing to charity activities, and misrepresentation about the attributes of a transaction for instance the quality and quantity of the goods, the cost of purchase, performance among other aspects.
The rule also prohibits calls that are not made within 8am and 9pm without prior consent of the person being called and delivery of pre recorded messages unless the seller and the consumer had previously agreed to it, making payment in advance for instance incase of wining offers and prizes where the victim is asked to pay in advance to facilitate the delivery of the prizes, failing to provide sufficient information concerning the value of the prize or other products to be purchased, offering of gifts as a blackmail to buying of other products or services without providing the right information regarding the value of the gift and finally provision of a product or service at a very high price and at the same time requiring payment in advance.
The telemarketing scammers are punished on conviction through payment of a fine or imprisonment or even both (Harris and American Bar Association 2001). All these provisions by the rule are aimed at reducing the effects of the increasing telemarketing unlawful practices especially the losses incurred by individuals and organizations out of the deceptive telemarketing practices not forgetting the most vulnerable targets of the scams who are the elderly (Congress (US) 2004).
What Are Some Of The Ways Of Dealing With Or Avoiding Telemarketing Scams? / Recommendations
Since the telemarketing scams are on the increase especially among the elderly people in the society, it is essential to be careful and take necessary precautions before undertaking any transaction through telephone as it is very difficult to recover the money back. Here are some of the recommendations ;( Federal Bureau of Investigation, n.d).
- Before buying any product or service, one should make sure that the company is well known and have adequate information concerning it.
- Investigate on any offer or charity issue for example through consulting written materials about them and ask for assistance from trusted people before making any decision.
- Ensure that you have adequate relevant and verified information about the salesperson for instance name, business identification number, telephone number, business location and mailing address before you undertake any transaction.
- Do not trust all testimonials as some are misleading.
- Take caution when buying products especially those that are given a lot of praise and terms and conditions seem very attractive.
- Avoid people who sound very helpful especially in situations where you were previously victimized and they promise to help you recover your money after you pay them some fee.
- Be ware never to give any personal information or money to unknown or unfamiliar individuals or companies for instance credit card numbers, bank account details and date of birth as the telemarketers may use this as a basis of committing fraud.
- Do not respond to offers or prizes you never participated or do not understand well.
- Do not pay for prizes since they should be delivered freely if they are genuine.
- Pay for products and services after delivery and not in advance.
- Incase you have any information about a scam, take a step of reporting it to the appropriate bodies like the law enforcers so that necessary actions may be taken against them.
- Be ware of warning signs of telemarketing scams by being cautious on statements like; ‘‘you must act now or the offer wont be good, you have won a free gift or prize but you have to pay some fee to facilitate delivery, you do not need any written information about the company, you can not afford to miss this offer, and you should send money or give credit card or bank account number’’ among others (Federal Bureau of Investigation, n.d).
From this research, it is evident that fraudulent telemarketers are on the increase and they continue to defraud the elderly people through their unlawful means. They are usually pushy marketing personnel that make their living from the victims’ savings by persuading them to enter into shoddy businesses which leave them exploited.
The problem is however exacerbated by the vulnerability of the victims and more importantly by the victims’ silence on the issue and lack of reporting. Lack of reporting makes assistance by responsible bodies like the police, protective services and even family members impossible and difficult for problem oriented solutions to be effected due to lack of adequate information regarding the scams.
Lack of reporting also encourages the telemarketing scammers to continue with their bad deals as no action is taken against them. The only solution left is that of being careful and adhering to the recommendation as stipulated above and also educative programs to the elderly regarding the issue of telemarketing and the concepts surrounding it for instance ways of identifying scam elements, contacting support services and reporting the cases.
There should be establishment of strict and effective law measures and reinforcement of the existing laws to ensure that those that violate them face severe punishments to act as examples to those intending to indulge in the illegal practices of telemarketing.
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