How many times have you received an email congratulating you about winning a lottery of $1 Million or that your bank account will be suspended unless you take an action like clicking on a link to update your bank details? I’d guess, at least once in your lifetime. And even if you haven’t, you will.
These are just some common examples of classic phishing scams. And while the ideal way to deal with them is deleting them or blocking the sender, Netsafe (New Zealand’s independent, non-profit online safety organization) is suggesting something interesting and worth your while.
Netsafe has developed an artificially intelligent email bot called Re:scam that can reply to scam emails (the types mentioned above and others). To be precise, Re:scam is all about scamming the scammers; idiomatically – giving them the taste of their own medicine.
So, how does Re:scam work?
If you think you have received a scam email, simply forward it to ME@rescam.org. That’s it! Re:scam will start replying to the scammer’s email asking them an endless series of questions and citing anecdotes to keep the conversation going. The bot is designed to appear natural in its conversation – it can imitate real human tendencies with humor and grammatical errors. This way the scammer will be kept busy thinking that they are engaging with a real victim.
So, what Re:scam does here is it wastes the scammer’s time with a fake stream of conversations so that they have less time to carry on with their job of scamming real people. And as a bonus feature, Re:scam is capable of playing infinite scammers at once.
Think of this like a bank which knows that there are robbers targeting their cash van when it is on its way to a certain ATM. Now, the bank will deploy a fake cash van first and let the robbers pursue it. And in the meantime, they will release the real cash van and safely carry the cash to the ATM.
Also, when you forward a scam email to ME@rescam.org your real email address is not used while Re:scam engages with the scammer. You may also choose to receive a transcript of the email conversation and have a good laugh at it may be.
Phishing is one of the oldest tricks in the toolbox of cybercriminals. And $12 billion is lost globally to phishing scams every year – that’s a lot of hard-earned money. It’s time we went from defense to offense against these nefarious lot. And Netsafe is doing a great job there!
You can learn more about Re:scam here.