Plenty of people have turned to poetry as a source of solace during the pandemic but could rhymes be used to prevent financial crimes?
Santander, one of the uks biggest high street banks, certainly thinks so and has enlisted british poets pam ayres and suli breaks to lead the fightback against the fraudsters in a social media campaign.
Inspired by national poetry day on thursday, poets may seem unlikely weapons in the war against investment scammers, but i think they could be surprisingly effective.
The danger is, people think theyre too clever or too well-researched to fall for this, said pam ayres, when i interviewed her over zoom this week.
She said she realised just how sophisticated scams had become when she nearly fell for one herself.
What i remember is the fear that i felt, that feeling of panic that they rely on, she told me. a very convincing professional-sounding man had called, claiming to be from her bank, explaining there had been a security breach on her account and that she needed to act swiftly to protect her savings.
When he didnt give direct answers to her questions, pam smelt a rat and hung up. perhaps, i thought, he was unnerved by hearing one of the most distinctive voices in britain on the other end of the phone.
At 73, pam is in the target demographic for fraudsters who commonly stalk the over-55s in the hope that they have more cash savings and liberated pension pots to raid.
Santanders own data found that customers aged over 55 accounted for 75 per cent of the value of reported investment fraud in the past 12 months.
Pams poem, have you got some money?, addresses this in its opening lines:
Have you got some money? are you getting on, like me? are you heading for retirement? being wild and free?are you looking for investments? somewhere canny for your cash? be careful. there are fraudsters who will steal it in a flash.
They are thieving peoples savings, taking everything theyve got. especially the older folk whove got a pension pot, they do not stalk the foolish, no, that isnt what they do, they target able, well-researched investors. just like you.
Further verses tackle the issue of cloned websites, which can appear scarily legitimate, and fake celebrity endorsements.
One of the things i was particularly scandalised by was a bitcoin scam i saw online that used graham norton and james corden, she told me. of course they didnt know anything about it they just take peoples names and say this persons done well, which is terrible.
Confessing finding a rhyme for fca isnt the kind of thing she usually writes, she added: i really wanted to do it to try and get all the information out there.
Spreading the message of awareness is even more important during the pandemic, with data from banking trade body uk finance last week showing a 27 per cent increase in investment scams year-on-year, with more than 55m lost in the first six months of the year.
This increase is mirrored bysantanders own data may 2020 saw the highest single monthly volume of investment scams reported by the banks customers.
This could be partly due to the fact that we are all spending much more time online and i think its highly significant that social media is where many investment scams now originate.
Suli breaks, the 32-year-old spoken word poet, wrote his poem too good to be true after he actually fell for an online investment fraud and unlike many victims of fraud, hes happy to admit it.
Describing himself as an entrepreneur whos always looking out for new opportunities check out his new 7even figures podcast for more suli admits he got caught up in a cryptocurrency situation.
I take full responsibility for it and i was lucky that i didnt lose that much, he told me. but its the lengths that these people go to convince you, thats what surprised me.
They take a bit of money, then they give you some back, then they ask you to involve a friend...theres often a ring of people who are interconnected. youre introduced to [other investors] with testimonies, but theyre in on the scam in the same way.
In the first six months of 2020,santandersaw a staggering 235 per cent increase in the value ofreported cryptocurrency scams.
Sulis poem focuses on the language that fraudsters use to carry out their deception, as well as their methods.
If someone asks you for money, your instant response is no, im not going to give it to you. but if someone asks you for an investment, it disarms you, he tells me. an investment is supposed to involve taking a risk anyway. and the stock trading guys sell it as learning a new skill the terminology catches people off guard.
His poem speaks to the aspirational pull of insta-scams and how young people, desperate to get on the property ladder, are easy victims:
Big deals & fast cars sprinkled with images of hotels with infinity pools. make so and so per month. your favourite influencer did it, so why cant you too?
You think about getting with your own property, your parents life insurance policy, covering your tuition and maybe nursery fees.
And all i need to do is make a small investment into a brand new and exciting cryptocurrency.
Its not often that i applaud a financial institution for good behaviour and goodness knows, i have battled with the banks over their poor treatment of customers who have been unwitting victims of fraud. this initiative should be commended for educating all customers, and not just santanders own.
However, the fight against fraud and for more robust customer protection when things go wrong does not end here.
The voluntary code for compensating victims of banking fraud didnt merit a rhyming couplet in either poem, but behind the scenes, this is what the laureates of the banking world are talking about.
Uk finance wants the voluntary code to be given statutory weight in legislation to ensure it applies to all firms as it becomes clear that customers are not being treated consistently.
For example, not all banks are using confirmation of payee technology which enables customers to double check who theyre really transferring money to. doing so would wipe out fraudsters who hack into solicitors and builders emails and fool unwitting customers with fake bank details.
Some banks are going further than others, such as tsb which launched a fraud refund guarantee last april and has since refunded more than 17m to customers who have fallen victim.
Banks have a crucial role in fraud prevention, educating their customers, fool-proofing their systems and using technology to combat the fraudsters.
But its not all down to the banks regulators, law enforcement and the social media giants must all take a much tougher stance on scams which are increasingly being peddled and legitimised on their platforms.
If poets can get in on the act, so should they.
Claer barrett is the fts consumer editor, and a financial commentator on eddie mairs lbc drive-time show, on weekdays between 4-7pm: ; twitter instagram