Tricks of the trade: Motivating sales agents to con older adults

DeLiema, M., Yon, Y., & Wilber, K. H. (2014). Tricks of the trade: Motivating sales agents to con older adults. The Gerontologist, gnu039.

Abstract:

PURPOSE OF THE STUDY:

Financial fraud is estimated to cost consumers approximately $50 billion annually. To examine how new hires are trained to engage in fraud, this study analyzed a sales training transcript from Alliance for Mature Americans (Alliance). In 1996, Alliance was charged with using deception and misrepresentation to sell more than $200 million worth of living trusts and annuities to 10,000 older adults in California.

DESIGN AND METHODS:

Transcribed recordings from a 2-day Alliance sales training seminar were analyzed using NVivo10, coded inductively, and examined to identify emergent themes.

RESULTS:

Predominant themes were as follows: (a) indoctrination using incentives and neutralization techniques and (b) training on persuasion tactics targeted at older adults. Findings suggest that sales training focuses on establishing the company’s legitimacy, normalizing unethical sales practices, and refining trainees’ knowledge about how to influence older consumers.

IMPLICATIONS:

Predatory and fraudulent businesses peddling ill-suited products threaten the economic security of older Americans. Improved insights into sales manipulation strategies can guide the development of protective policies including educational approaches to help older adults detect scams and resist purchasing fraudulent products.

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Special Thanks to Judith D. Tamkin

We are sincerely appreciative to Judith D. Tamkin for her gift to help establish the USC Center on Elder Mistreatment’s website. Her deep and personal commitment to eradicating elder abuse is helping to reshape our understanding of elder abuse and ultimately save innumerable older adults from abuse and neglect.