Every year, people around the world lose billions of dollars to investment fraud. One Canadian province decided to do something about it.

The Alberta Securities Commission (ASC) is the regulatory agency that administers and enforces securities legislation in the province of Alberta. The agency works to improve, coordinate and harmonize the regulation of Canada's capital markets, and has a mandate to provide investor education across the province to all Albertans of investing age (18 and above). As Albertans struggle in a poor economy, the need for awareness of fraud is great.

We were guided by the insight that no one thinks that they would fall for a scam — in psychology, this is called “optimism bias,” which causes a person to believe that they're less at risk of experiencing a negative event compared to others. To show that fraud can happen to anyone, we executed the perfect scam. Using the red flags of investment fraud throughout the campaign, we promoted and held a fake real estate investment seminar featuring a fictitious financier and investment firm. Midway through the seminar, we revealed the con while sharing the story of an Alberta businessman who took his own life after being defrauded for more than $300,000. Together, the seminar and story demonstrated that investment fraud really could happen to anyone.

We captured the fake seminar on video and used the footage to educate Albertans as well as Canadians about the dangers of investment scams.

  • Visitors to the ASC’s investor education website quadrupled from the previous period
  • Social media engagement was 612% over objective
  • Video views of campaign video 1,674% more than projected
  • 100% of media hits had a positive sentiment towards the campaign
  • 14 million media impressions; 1,293% over the target benchmark