Interactive Learning

How We Scammed People at Glastonbury (For a Good Cause)

Emily Rosenorn-Lanng
Dr Sally Lee
6th June 2017

Have you ever wondered how scammers operate and how to avoid falling for their tricks? That’s what we wanted to find out when we took our financial scams research to the Glastonbury Festival in 2017. In this blog post, we’ll share our experience of scamming people (with their consent, of course) and educating them about the dangers of scams.

Why We Chose Glastonbury

Glastonbury is probably the best-known music festival in the country, attracting a huge and diverse audience every year. We thought it would be an amazing opportunity to engage with people who might not normally be interested in our research topic. We also wanted to challenge ourselves and find new ways of presenting our research in a fun and interactive way.

How We Scammed People

The first thing people asked us when we told them about our project was: “Are you going to scam people?” And the answer was yes, but only with their permission and for educational purposes. We used an exercise that demonstrated how humans tend to want to please and are generally reciprocal by nature, which are characteristics that scammers use to their advantage (Langenderfer and Shimp, 2001).

We asked people to fill out a short survey about their opinions on scams and then offered them a small reward for their participation. However, before they could claim their reward, we asked them for some personal information, such as their name, email address, phone number, and date of birth. We also asked them to sign a consent form that gave us permission to use their data for our research.

We then revealed that we had just scammed them and explained how we did it. We also showed them how easy it was for us to find out more information about them online based on the data they gave us. We then returned their personal information and thanked them for taking part in our experiment.

How We Educated People

To make our research attractive and draw in an audience, we turned to games that offered information in bite-sized chunks and rewarded players who used their scam “antennae”. We had a range of activities to appeal to children (and the sleep deprived) and older participants.

One of our games was “Scams and Ladders”, a colourful board game where getting caught by scamming snakes meant sliding down the board, while beating the scammers meant racing up the ladders. The game also included cards with facts and tips about scams that players could read aloud.

Another game was a card sorting game where different scams were depicted with colourful illustrations. Players had to sort the cards into scam type and the correct sequence of events. For example, one card showed a phishing email asking for bank details, another card showed a fake website asking for a password, and another card showed money being transferred from the victim’s account.

For the detectives, we had hidden clues within letters and emails that revealed signs of scams. Some clues were only visible with the use of a UV torch.

What We Learned

These were fun activities, but our attendance at Glastonbury was also a serious research endeavour. Not only did we collect data about the general public’s awareness of scams, but we also tested alternative ways of presenting research that broke through the barriers between “research” and “real life”. We evaluated our project and built on our findings to develop improved resources.

We learned that most people were aware of some common types of scams, such as phishing emails or lottery scams, but not others, such as romance scams or investment scams. We also learned that most people were confident in their ability to spot and avoid scams, but often overlooked subtle cues or ignored red flags. We also learned that most people were curious and willing to learn more about scams and how to protect themselves.

Scamming is an extremely serious issue affecting more than 3.25 million people annually in the UK (Age UK, 2015), and can result in significant harm to victims’ health and well-being. This means finding diverse ways of communicating knowledge that empowers people and increases prevention through raising awareness is essential – including games.

Meet the author(s)

Emily Rosenorn-Lanng

Researcher
Emily Rosenorn-Lanng is a researcher and project manager at the National Centre for Cross Disciplinary Social Work (NCCDSW) at Bournemouth University. She has over 19 years of experience in conducting and managing various research projects in health and social care, local government, tourism and heritage sectors. She specialises in quantitative research methods, game-based learning, generative AI, cybersecurity, and accessibility. She is also pursuing a part-time PhD in game-based learning in Cyber Security education. She has published several research papers and reports on topics such as mental capacity, cyber fraud, child mortality, leadership development, and more. She has also participated in the InnovateUK cyberasap program, a pre-accelerator for cyber security start-ups.
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Dr Sally Lee

Programme Lead for the MA and BA Social Work programmes
Sally completed her Post-Doctoral Research in 2016, exploring social work practice, physical disability and sexual well-being. Sally is Programme Lead for the MA and BA Social Work programmes and teaches across both programmes leading the Professional Practice with Adults units and the First Placement unit with the BA students.
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