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McNair Scholars Program

Alice Thomas

She/her

Education: Bachelor of Science in human ecology (May 1999)

McNair Project: Financial Abuse of the Elderly in Kansas Via Telemarketing (1997)

Mentor: Pamela Turner, Ph.D.

The incidence of consumer fraud through telemarketing is on the increase, resulting in increased numbers of elderly people becoming victims.

A review of literature including journal articles, publications for and about the elderly, and information gleaned from a questionnaire used in random sampling of elderly in the north central Kansas area, interviews with personnel of the North Central Flint Hills Area Agency on Aging, and the Consumer Protection Division of the Kansas Attorney General's Office are sources of information for this study.

Findings suggest a disproportionate number of elderly persons are being defrauded by telemarketers. These findings include the following: fraudulent telemarketers attempt to defraud older people on the theory that they tend to be more trusting and polite toward strangers, they are more accessible (i.e., at home during the daytime) and may be more easily defrauded through "fast-talk" and "double-talk." Telemarketing fraud is becoming prevalent enough to cause the Federal Trade Commission to pass a regulation entitled "Consumer Protections -- New Telemarketing Sales Rule" which restricts telemarketers by making it illegal and punishable for telemarketers and their associates to defraud citizens.

No numbers are presently available regarding telemarketing fraud complaints which were age-group sorted, making it necessary to use figures by percentage of population who are more than 60 years of age. It is recommended that agencies whose staff field complaints be able also to begin tracking those complaints by the age of the consumer involved.