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

Marguerite De Liema, Yongjie Yon, Kathleen H. Wilber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)335-344
Number of pages10
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author 2014.


  • Consumer fraud
  • Indoctrination
  • Neutralization techniques
  • Persuasion knowledge
  • Persuasion tactics
  • Sales tactics


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