Scammer email: I need an investor to invest 300000$ in farming that will yield profit of 6000000$ in eight months [sic]
James’ response: What sort of farming are we talking about? Will I need to milk a cow?
Scammer: No cow business but snail farm only
James: How are we supposed to get milk from snails? Have you thought this through?
Comedian James Veitch, quoted above (in his book Dot Con), does what the rest of us assiduously avoid. He responds to spam email. Scammers must be a dour bunch because they don’t seem to pick up that James is humoring them. Indeed, they expend significant effort and time responding straightly to James’ cheeky emails. The scammer with the farming opportunity dutifully explained that the snails would not be milked. He further responded to another 14 ridiculously funny messages from James.
Wasting scammers’ time is precisely the point. As James quipped “any time they’re spending with me is time they’re not spending scamming vulnerable adults out of their savings.” It’s wildly entertaining, but James might very well be making the world safer. For the last three years, he has spent as much time as he can thwarting scammers with his email wit.
Sure, it’s impossible to know how many people are still happily enjoying financial health because of James. Is this, however, much different than more traditional charitable activities? Few of us have definitive evidence that our trail cleanups or board service has changed the world.
Even if James has only saved one grandma from destitution, that’s a deeply meaningful outcome. How many of us can claim doing something that significant this past year? What’s more, James encourages others to respond to spam. Imagine millions of us scamming scammers with expressions of bogus interest. Might we not sink the entire dark business?
By taking on internet crime in his everyday job, James has inadvertently applied a management practice called job purposing that expands the societal impact of one’s work. Managers at Caesars Entertainment, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, LinkedIn and many other companies job purpose as a way to serve society while increasing employee engagement, performance, and wellbeing. If there’s a way to job purpose the stand-up comedy, there’s got to be a way to job purpose all work!
Can you think of a way to expand the societal impact of your work? What might your job look like when purposed?
This post was originally published on LinkedIn on the post date and reposted here in January 2018 when this site launched.