I like telemarketing, both putting a campaign in place but also being on the end of a telemarketing campaign. Whilst in the UK I would be called on a regular basis on my land line for some product or other, in Dubai this is not the case. I get called on my mobile. A lot.
Let me explain. It seems the moment you do one of two things in Dubai you are going to start getting a lot of calls. This would be:
1. Opening a Bank Account
2. Buying a Property
The first one invites you into the world of credit card and loan offers as well as the harder sell from Independent Financial Advisers (IFAs). The second opens you up into the phone spam of the real estate agents. How these people end up with my number is anybody’s guess but it intrigues me the dedication some of these telemarketers have. There are four basic types in my experience:
1. The Speculative
“Do you want a credit card from xyz bank?”
“Ermmm, no thanks”
Dial tone…………Is that it? I always feel a little short changed by these ones, make an effort at least.
2. The Desperate
“Do you have an apartment in Building xyz?”
“Yes, I do”
“Would you like to sell it?”
“Ermmm, not really”
“How about renting it?”
“I am living there. Thanks”
“How about making another investment in property?”
“I am ok, thanks”
“But, now is just the right time to buy!”
“Thanks, but no thanks”
Firms doing this will typically phone me every week, but by a different person from that company with no clue that I have already spoken to them before. I like to humour them by asking about the market conditions, the pricing, the number of buyers, how many properties have they recently sold? It is kind of fun.
3. The Friendly
This was new to me and I can only admire the approach. A UK accented female would usually call me:
“Hi is that Aaron?”
“Yes it is”
“Hi Aaron, we haven’t spoken before but I got your name from <insert name of a colleague of mine> and he said that you would be interested in what we have to say”
“So <insert name of a colleague of mine> is a great guy isn’t he?”
“Uh, I guess”
“<insert name of a colleague of mine> has made some investments with xyz Finance House – Have you heard of xyz Finance House?”
“Oh I am surprised. xyz Finance House are the biggest in the Middle East and we have 38 offices around the world. We tailor special expat packages that are exclusive to us. Would you like to speak to one of our Senior Financial advisors? – he is a great British guy making a lot of money for expats like yourself and your friend <insert name of a colleague of mine>”
So with a sell like that I take the appointment. A week later a guy in a cheap suit tells me I should be investing at least 30-50% of disposable income into a “special” investment vehicle that if you want to access before an x year period means you lose most of your capital. But before dispensing with this amazing advice he basically forces me to give him ten contacts from my mobile so that he can continue their “referral” only business.
I have to admit to thinking that this sales tactics verges on the unethical. To the ten people I gave up. I am truly sorry.
4. The Boiler Room
A no-caller ID comes up – unusual for this part of the world
“Hi, is that Aaron?” says a heavily accented Asian female voice.
“Yes, it is”
“I am representing Carter-Sinclair – we are an exclusive investment house for expats. Would you like us to send you a brochure?”
“Sure. Why not”
A few weeks pass and the high quality glossy arrives in the mail. I look it at. It says nothing and I bin it.
The same girl calls me:
“Did you receive the brochure?”
“Yes, I did”
“Very good. One of our Senior Brokers will call you in the next few days”
True enough a couple of days pass and I get a call from Andy. He calls me at the same time about 9.30am most mornings for more than two weeks. I brush him off the first six or seven times, I admire his persistence and I eventually take the call.
“Hi Aaron. Andy here from Sinclair-Carter. You sure have been busy. You must be making a lot of money?”
“Did you receive the brochure we sent?”
“Yes, I did”
‘Great, So what line of business are you in?”
“Must be a busy time for you?”
“Have you been receiving financial advise in Duabi?”
Now based upon “The Friendly” scenario above I answer
“How has it performed in the last six months?”
“I guess you have taking a beating like a lot of my clients. Aaron – have you been following the price of Gold? It is up at nearly 900 dollars an ounce, doubling over the year”
“Yes. I have seen that”
“We have an amazing opportunity. Sierra Exploration a Canadian gold mining company are about to start major excavation on some old prospecting sites and we expect the stock to double in the next three to six months”
“The stock is currently at $2.20 and for first time buyers like your self I am willing to give you a 10% discount on up to 10,000 shares. There you will make 9.8% over night and double your money in just a few months. Now I know we are not talking Rolls Royce money but it is a start right?”
“Look. Have you got a pen? Good. Take down this website http://www.sierraexp.com and check it out. There stockticker is SRAE go to bloomberg and track it”
“Where you from?”
“Which football team do you support?”
“I prefer Rugby”
“Oh, you must be able to control your temper because last time I played Rugby I got into a fight”
“I will give you a call in a few days. Anyway you can give me a call if you have any questions at +8222083262”
Amazing. One of my favourite movies is “Boiler Room” I love the hard sell tactics to sell stock in shell companies leaving the customers broke and the brokers rich. I loved the way the guy even used some of the lines from the movie.
A ten minute google revealed that this practice is common place and Dubai expats are prime targets. People can easily lose tens of thousands of dollars. There is a thread here and some words of caution from the City of London Police and the FSA. The clues are all there even without the internet search. A weird +822 number, no caller id, no trading stock volume, cursory company websites. It is a scam, a very elaborate one played out over weeks and months.
I share this with you because if something is too good to be true. Inevitably it isn’t.