HBO is getting ready to release a three-part documentary series that sets out to expose the dark underbelly of charity telemarketers via two whistleblowers.
The two undercover employees brought down the telemarketing organization they worked for from the inside and are now exposing the scam for its unethical practices.
The “Telemarketers” series covers the journey of high-school dropout Sam Lipman-Stern and salesman Pat Pespas over 20 years as they discover that the New Jersey call center they worked for only sent a small percentage of the money it raked in to actual charities while pocketing the rest.
The docuseries comes from brothers Josh and Benny Safdie, who directed “Uncut Gens” in 2019, and from actor Danny McBride. It tells the story of the two employees as they morph into whistleblowers who expose a billion-dollar scam.
(Video Credit: HBO)
“We’re going into Civic Development Group,” Pespas states in the trailer from HBO, which came out on July 26. “And what we do, is we call up people and we chisel them out of money.”
Lipman-Stern was only 14 years old when he joined the call center and started pulling in dough for the so-called charities. He had no idea his employer was ripping off the most vulnerable out there to get rich. He found himself surrounded by debauchery, booze, and drugs.
“I didn’t think I was doing anything bad at all,” he claimed.
One US official noted that “regulating telemarketing is like regulating Somalian pirates, it just can’t be done.”
“We need to show the world what this place really does,” Lipman-Stern asserted. “The media and the government hasn’t been able to stop them, so now it’s up to us.”
“Pat and I had vowed to expose the industry,” he added. “It seemed to be evolving into something bigger and weirder than ever.”
— HBO Documentaries (@HBODocs) July 26, 2023
The series is set to air on August 13. It utilizes raw eyewitness footage taken by Lipman-Stern.
HBO is hyping it on the show’s site, noting, “The HBO Original docuseries Telemarketers chronicles the 20-year journey of two unlikely employees who stumble upon the murky truth behind a seedy New Jersey call center. With raw eyewitness footage and a comedic cast of characters, this three-part documentary takes you from an anarchic boiler room filled with booze, drugs, and debauchery to the halls of the United States Senate as a billion-dollar telemarketing scam unravels.”
For many years now, the Federal Trade Commission has identified telemarketing fraud as a serious ongoing problem in the United States.
Charity scams that pose as actual charities are a favorite of telemarketing firms, targeting Americans who wish to help others, pulling on their heartstrings. They use a wide variety of current events to empty people’s wallets including natural disasters in order to make the hustle sound more believable.
Because so many have fallen victim to these scams and just hate telemarketers in general, the series is garnering a ton of attention and a lot of Americans are looking forward to watching it, according to the Daily Mail.
— HBO (@HBO) August 4, 2023
“I worked in a place like this when I was 16-17 and people always whispered about how it was a total scam,” one person commented on YouTube. “Heard through the grapevine years later that the entire parent company had been shut down and there were charges laid and people in prison for fraud. Can’t wait to watch this!”
“I worked for one of these types of businesses in high school. The week before I started it was raided by the FBI. No charges were filed. I did not stay there long but the money was very good. There were guys making a real good living there collecting ‘donations’ for charities,” another person claimed.
danny mcbride and safdie brothers hbo documentary about telemarketers? sign me the fUCK up
— michael (@michaelleung) August 2, 2023
The scams take many forms including one that has been around for a while that is getting a high-tech boost. The fraudsters target parents using AI to clone their children’s voices to call with fake emergencies and ransom demands.
The most common scam in the US involves a fraudster impersonating someone in order to steal money. In 2022, Americans were fleeced for $2.6 billion according to the Federal Trade Commission.
The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City star Jen Shah was sentenced in January to six and a half years in prison for a telemarketing scheme that she ran for years. It callously took aim at the elderly and vulnerable, emptying their savings and getting them to max out credit cards to fill her bank account, according to the Daily Mail.
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