A student reflection on
Dr. Anthony Pratkanis’s “The Nature of Economic Fraud Crimes” seminar

by Stewart Nafziger and Mattias Clymer

Dr. Anthony Pratkanis, a Professor at University of California, graduated from EMU in 1979 and has been declared 2009‘s Alumnus of the Year. On Friday, October 9th, Pratkanis addressed how Americans are losing 40 million dollars a year through telemarketing fraud in his lecture The Nature of Economic Fraud Crimes.

Pratkanis outlined common stereotypical myths about victims of telemarketing fraud as naive, stupid, poor money managers, and senile. This is not true. The overriding factor in the populations targeted by telemarketers is dependent upon the amount of money they possess. Consequently, the elderly population is the most targeted. Pratkanis stated that many during their working lives held high professions and were leaders in the community. Persons with a higher financial literacy, also, tended to be more susceptible to telemarketing fraud.

Pratkanis discussed common techniques these telemarketing scammers use to swindle the victims into giving them their money. These numerous techniques, such as phantom fixation, social proof, authority, and scarcity, often affect the victim’s emotions. Phantom fixation is when the victim becomes preoccupied with a prize offered by the telemarketer. The telemarketer uses social proof by showing pictures and testimonials of alleged winners of their scam. Often telemarketers pretend to be of high authority to gain trust and confidence. Finally, the telemarketer uses scarcity by instilling panic in the victim and claiming his deal is limited.

Through research Pratkanis found that awareness to these techniques is the greatest protection against telemarketing fraud. In accordance Pratkanis gives three tips for proving the authenticity of telemarketers: Always ask for their broker’s license, product registration number, and if they claim to be a charity organization, ask for the percentage that goes to charity. In his studies, Pratkanis found that these tips reduce the effectiveness of the telemarketers by one- half.

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