Help This Email Bot Distract Scammers From Targeting Real Humans

iStock
iStock

Each year, online phishing scams cost Americans roughly half a billion dollars in stolen cash. One way to protect yourself is to train your eye to recognize fraudulent emails and delete them once they enter your inbox, but some experts recommend a more proactive way to deal with scammers: Engage with them. The idea is that the more time they spend answering your questions, the less time they’ll have to prey upon more susceptible victims. Sounds like a smart plan, but few people have the time or the patience to tackle the flood of spam they receive one message at a time. That’s why a New Zealand-based nonprofit developed a bot to help the cause.

According to Co.Design, Re:scam from Netsafe is designed to keep the person at the other end of the email chain distracted for as long as possible. Web users wishing to get in on the fun can forward their scam emails to me@rescam.org. From there, an artificially intelligent bot takes over the conversation. It’s programmed to ask questions that make it seem like an interested and naive respondent—a scammer’s preferred victim. But as the sample emails show, the scam never moves forward.

“Did I tell you I was moving?" the bot writes when it's asked to send its address. "We fell out with the landlord. Apparently we’re not allowed to have indoor plants in the attic cos it’s a fire hazard." It might offer to send Chevron petrol vouchers in place of cash, or to email a bank account number one digit at a time for security’s sake. It’s also capable of making bad jokes and typos just like a real person. “I understand the urgency. Time is money as they say. Does that make ATM’s time machine? Just a thought I had,” one response reads.

At some point the scammers will realize they’re being played and stop replying, but not before they’ve lost time that could have been spent going after someone else. So far, over 50,000 emails have been sent by Re:scam. All the while, the nonprofit has been analyzing the messages it receives so the data can be used to better fight scammers in the future.

If you’re lucky enough to have your inbox free of messages asking you to wire money to Nigerian princes, you can watch the video below to see how the technology works.

[h/t Co.Design]

The Mental Floss Store Is Back!

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You've been asking about it for months, and today we can finally confirm that the Mental Floss Store is back up and running! Simply head here to find dozens of T-shirts with all sorts of unique designs to choose from, whether you’re in the market for a pi pun, a risqué grammar joke, or something only your fellow bookworms will appreciate. You can even use your new Mental Floss shirt to teach your friends all about scurvy.

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Print Your Own Custom Phone Cases With This KODAK Printer

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Kodak

If you’re stuck staring at the same picture on your phone case for months (or years) on end, this KODAK PrintaCase Printer will pop out a new custom case in just minutes with whatever image you desire. And right now, you can save $10 on the whole package, bringing the final price down to $120.

You start the process by hooking your phone up to the KODAK PrintaCase app and selecting your phone model. Adjust the framing until it’s just how you’d like it and voilá. There are printer models compatible with a range of phones, from the Apple iPhone 7/8 through the iPhone 11 Pro and the Samsung Galaxy S8 through the Samsung Galaxy S10+. Each printer model comes with a clear case that fits that specific phone, and the print-out will be tailored to fit perfectly.

While changing your phone case is fun, it’s a skill that can also make and save you money. Use it to create unique and personalized gifts this holiday season, or sell your designs to others looking for something unique.

Score one today while the KODAK PrintaCase Printer and accessories are discounted to $120.

Prices subject to change.

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