The New Romance Scammer’s Instructor is a collection of Ghanaian romance scammers’ messages that I collected and edited in a book.
A romance scam, also known as an online dating scam, is when a person gets tricked into believing they are in a romantic relationship with someone they met online. In fact, their other half is a swindler using a fake identity to gain enough of their victim’s trust to demand money from them.
In Ghana the phenomenon of Internet scamming is called “Sakawa”, a term defining illegal practices that combine modern Internet-based fraud with African spiritual rituals. The type of fraud that prevails in the
cybercrime business in Ghana is online dating or romance scam.
Often scammers follow specific scripts, because they use pre-written texts, known as “formats”, templates ready to be copy-pasted into the conversations with their “victims” (mugu).
During my artistic residency at pIAR in Kumasi (Ghana), I have been searching for these formats with the idea of publishing them as a collection of texts, in the tradition of 18th and 19th-century manuals for love letters-writing, also known as “The Lover’s Instructor” in the UK, “Secrétarie Galant” in France and “Segretario Galante” in Italy.
They were guides to composing love letters that offered examples of correspondence, templates, and general tips to support the many lovers who did not possess great linguistic gifts or a lively imagination.
The parallel between these publications and the «formats» of the ghanaian scammers seemed strikingly obvious to me.
Cover Illustration by Originialbigwig Artist