Some people make jokes about online dating.
And some people make jokes about good old fashioned-printed letters (I’m looking at you, digi folk).
So I was fascinated to hear about the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)’s Scam Disruption Project which brings these together, in an effort to “help protect the Australian community from relationship scammers”.
It has been reported that the ACCC will “initially send 400 letters per fortnight to consumers to warn them they may be the target of a relationship scammer.”
The ACCC will reportedly achieve this work by partnering with agencies to uncover patterns of banking behaviour to hopefully identify those relationship scam victims who could be wiring money overseas.
I wonder how those people will feel when they receive that unexpected letter in the mail.
A pilot project reportedly worked well.
Print letters are becoming rare as we share more information via email and social media instead, and we are presented with more and more options to pay bills online and conduct all of our banking over the ‘net.
Will the ACCC letters be opened at all, or fall victim to the junk mail pile? I can imagine, of those opened, they letter could cause some alarm and devastation. Recipients may feel foolish, scared, ashamed. Ironically, some recipients might feel that their privacy has been invaded. But I hope that ultimately, they will examine their online relationship and recognise the warning signs which the ACCC is sharing. Their hearts may be broken, but that would have only been a matter of time.
For professional communicators like me, this is a powerful project indeed. It is a strong, proactive outreach to a target audience which may not want to hear your message. But at the same time, the ACCC is obligated to try a variety of means to stop these scams from occurring. They not only rob people of their savings, but potentially their dignity and faith in others. They can be hurtful emotionally and have an impact on victims’ working life and other relationships.
As the Scamwatch website warns, with dating scams:
“The money you send to scammers is almost always impossible to recover and in addition, you may feel long-lasting emotional betrayal at the hands of someone who you thought loved you and was trustworthy.”
I have joked about spam emails on Prakkypedia before – the nonsensical, clumsy approaches made over email which trot out very similar pitches. Yet there are some vulnerable, lonely people in the community who read these types of emails and believe them. If you’d like to know more about Scam Disruption Project, read the ACCC warning signs for scam relationships and the very useful and detailed information on Scamwatch.
See the tips on relationship scams on the ACCC YouTube channel here: