Dialing for Dollars: Opportunities, Justifications, and Telemarketing Fraud

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2004


Opportunities for deviant economic exploitation grew significantly in the second half of the twentieth century. Drawing from interviews with forty-seven fraudulent telemarketers, this article describes the backgrounds and pursuits of one type of deviant actor that has stepped forward to exploit these opportunities. The men and women interviewed for this research were reared in middle-class, disproportionately managerial and entrepreneurial families. Their class and family backgrounds provided them with high, but ill-defined, expectations for material success. Their preparation for successful conventional careers was unremarkable. As a result, they were predisposed to economic activities that required few credentials but provided a high income. Once involved in and aware of the deviant nature of their endeavors, continuation in fraud was facilitated by the income it produced and the lifestyle it permitted, by self-definitions enhanced by their manipulative abilities, and by acquisition and use of a vocabulary of motive that deflected blame. An augmented version of sociological strain theory provides an analytic vantage point from which to examine the backgrounds, aspirations, and perspectives of those involved in fraudulent telemarketing.

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