DAPM: Detecting and Preventing Mass Marketing Fraud

Principal Investigator: Professor Monica Whitty, University of Warwick

The DAPM project will develop novel techniques to detect and prevent online mass marketing fraud (MMF), a major and growing problem that generates significant social anxiety and psychological impact. DAPM will establish new foundations for:

  • Detecting assumed identities and persuasive messaging used by fraudsters
  • Delivering much needed insights into the psychological and technical factors that lead to poor decision-making on the part of existing and prospective victims of such frauds

Through a multi-disciplinary approach and close focus on co-designing solutions collaboratively and testing them ‘in the wild’, the project will generate not only new scientific understanding of the anatomy of MMF, but also tools and techniques that can form the basis of practical interventions in tackling such fraud.

Importantly, this work brings together academic and non-academic partners. Each organisation has different knowledge to share and can tackle the problem using different methods. Combining academic research with technical knowledge provides much greater capability to prevent and detect MMF. The outcomes of this project will enable:

  • Increased trust in the digital economy by citizens due to developed science around MMF detection and prevention
  • Improvements in public safety and fewer victims of MMF crime.
  • Changes in industry tactics and public policy around detection and prevention of MMF


MMF is a serious, complex and organised crime. Examples include foreign lotteries, advanced-fee scams and romance scams. Some are low value, one-off scams involving large numbers of victims, others involve developing a relationship where money is defrauded over time. The internet has opened up a vast array of opportunities for criminal to target potential victims and to trick people into making financial transfers in the name of charity, investment or love.

Reporting bodies in the UK, such as Action Fraud, estimate that less than 10% of victims actually report this type of crime. Victims are unlikely to recover losses, offenders are often not caught and many victims are affected psychologically – this often outweighs the financial impacts.

Multi-disciplinary research is needed to develop more effective prevention and detection techniques and strategies to tackle this crime. In the past, organisations have mainly attempted to deal with this problem independently. Co-creation and ‘in the wild’ research will open up opportunities for novel methods of detection and prevention and provide links between organisations who are currently dealing with the impact of this crime.


Posted on

June 23, 2020