There’s a new way to deal with scam emails – and it doesn’t involve the junk folder.
New Zealand’s online safety organisation, Netsafe, has launched Re:scam, a new chatbot designed to waste the time of online scammers.
Netsafe describes the bot as, “the world's most inefficient and unhelpful chatbot,” but assures users it only bothers the scammers.
Re:scam is designed specifically for phishing emails, and works by using AI capabilities to assume multiple personas that engage with scammers in order to waste time that could be spent on potential victims.
Making use of humour and grammatical errors, the bot aims to closely mimic human online tendencies in order to suck in cyber criminals into a never-ending conversation, while also collecting data that can be used to shut down the scams.
“I'm an artificially intelligent email bot, made to reply to scam emails,” the bot says on its website.
“I'm anyone, and no one… As far as scammers will know, I'm you.”
The cleverly-designed site contains a sample of hilarious exchanges between the scammer and email receiver.
However, the creative scheme has been launched against the backdrop of a serious problem.
CEO of Netsafe, Martin Cocker said online scamming continues to flourish.
“We are really concerned about the growth of predatory email phishing, while victims remain essentially powerless,” he said.
“We feel the scale of the problem far outweighs the attention it receives, and we want to empower people to take action. Re:scam provides them with the opportunity to do so.
“Re:scam will adapt as the scammers adapt their techniques, collecting data that will help us to keep up and protect more and more people across New Zealand.”
Netsafe reported that 70% of New Zealand businesses that had experienced a cybercrime had been victim of an email scam, with total cybercrime costing the economy almost $257 million in the past year.
In Australia, email scams alone have already cost the economy $12,310,817 this year, with reports of phishing schemes 63% higher than any other scam.
While there is nothing as innovative as Re:scam in Australia, collecting data remains the frontline of defence.
Scamwatch was launched in 2006 by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to help consumers recognise, avoid and report scams.
The website encourages users to report any scams they experience online in order to assist in monitoring scam trends and take action where needed.
“Scammers use phishing to trick their victims into giving out valuable personal information such as their bank account numbers, passwords, credit card numbers or even their online passwords for their PayPal, Apple or social media accounts,” said ACCC Acting Chair, Delia Rickard.
“If you think your information has been stolen by a scammer, report it to the relevant institution immediately.
“The sooner you can act, the better.”
Received a phishing email? Simply email it to firstname.lastname@example.org and the chatbot will take care of the rest.