The challenge we were facing with Netsafe was a multibillion dollar criminal industry, that has been quietly growing for too long. We knew the best solution would be one that could fight scamming in a way that was effective on a large scale, and captured the attention and imagination of people everywhere. Although Netsafe is a nonprofit based in Auckland, phishing scamming is a global issue, so our solution needed to be global as well. Because there is a common feeling of shame amongst scam victims, scamming crimes are not reported or discussed nearly as much as they should be. On top of this, internet security is a topic that people typically find quite dull and unengaging. We needed to come up with something effective, entertaining and educational on a small budget.
Phishing scams are always evolving and take on many different forms, but they are all based around sending massive amounts of emails, until they get responses. The crime arrives as an email, we believed our solution could too. We wondered if we could dramatically increase a scammer’s hit rate so they would spend more time on fake leads than real ones. So we set about building an army of ‘victims’.
This was a massive undertaking. We researched, designed, built and tested the entire system in-house before launch. It was vital that Re:scam was unrecognisable as a bot, so we developed it to have a growing vocabulary and multiple human personas with which to engage scammers. As more scam emails came in, new responses were added to follow conversations about new scams and topics. To give Re:scam a visual identity, we created the morphing Re:scam face and used text to speech software. This made every element of Re:scam from the email writing, aesthetic and audio computer generated. To protect our staff and systems we kept the project entirely confidential and didn’t divulge the agency’s link to the project until months after we launched. Without a large budget for media push we were depending on Re:scam’s effectiveness and entertainment value to get earned media through all the right channels. Within days Re:scam had made its way to the front of Reddit and had started a global conversation about scammers and the chatbot that was scamming them.
Cannes Lions 2018
One Show 2018