Using bots to scam the scammers

Don’t waste your time baiting email scammers. Get a bot to do it for you instead.

Using bots to scam the scammers

Do you chuckle every time you check your spam mail and you see all of the messages that tell you how the beneficiary of a large sum of money needs your help in securing the funds?

Or how about the one where you only need to pay a "registration fee" to free your $1.5M USD funds that await you in some other far-off land?

By now, we all know that these are scams, designed to take your hard-earned money. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to play with the scammers, just to waste their time and prevent them from targeting others? There are sites that allow you participate in baiting the scammers, but that involves a bit of an investment in your time.

Now, however, a new bot takes the work out of fighting back against the scammers.

New Zealand's Netsafe Organization has devised a simple and clever way to respond to these scam messages. It is called REscam, and all you need to do to participate is to forward any of the scam messages to ME@rescam.org, and the bot gets to work, engaging in a phony conversation with the scammers with an endless stream of “questions and anecdotes” so the scammers have less time to pursue other people.

When you forward a scam message to ME@rescam.org, your personal mail address is protected by a proxy account used to respond to the scammers. When you forward the message, you will receive a response from Rescam.org, and you may unsubscribe if you do not want to receive any communication from them, however, you may still submit as many scam messages as you like to the rescam bot.

I have known about the NetSafe organization from years ago as part of the Safe and Secure Online initiative, which seeks to educate young folks about staying safe on the internet. With Rescam, NetSafe has come up with a clever way towards protecting us all simply by slowing the criminals down. This is an organization worthy of our support!

This is not the first use of a bot to combat online predators. A few years ago, a "Virtual Lolita" known as Negobot was developed to engage sexual predators. Chatbots have become sophisticated enough to pass the Turing test, essentially fooling people into thinking the bot is human.

The next time you get one of those annoying messages from someone who wants to romance you, or wants to shower you with fortunes, don't just press the delete key, forward that message to ME@rescam.org.

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7 Responses

  1. Adrian

    November 16, 2017 at 1:17 am #

    I'm guessing that the scammers either already are, or soon will be, using bots on their end too. Who has the most believable bot?

    • Arnold Schmidt in reply to Adrian.

      November 17, 2017 at 3:14 pm #

      Makes one wonder how much traffic is going to be generated by duelling bots in the coming years.

  2. Jennifer

    November 16, 2017 at 7:57 pm #

    Always wanted to mess with the scammers, especially on the phone. Just received a junk message and forwarded! Boy, that felt good to hit send! Thank you Graham!!

    Fan For Life!

    • Bob Covello in reply to Jennifer.

      November 19, 2017 at 6:33 pm #

      Jennifer:
      Thanks for the kind words!
      Yes, there is some sense of satisfaction from doing that!

  3. coyote

    November 19, 2017 at 5:33 pm #

    'Do you chuckle every time you'

    No. Because some people are vulnerable including the elderly. That's not at all amusing.

    'New Zealand's Netsafe Organization has devised a simple and clever way to respond to these scam messages.'

    Yes, great. It's also a clever way to further stress MTAs and add more traffic over the Internet in general. Isn't that what spammers do and is one of the things everyone hates about spammers? Yes? Then this is shameful hypocrisy.

    That being said it's true that all good leaders will have others do things for them unless they have no other choice. But that doesn't mean the deeds of all your minions (and sympathisers etc.) are justified. And that's the case here. It's not going to solve anything anyway. Now if someone calls you trying to scam you? That's another kettle of fish; because you're preventing them from scamming others and you can have a laugh at their expense at the same time. But that's different when it comes to email and the Internet more generally.

    Although less extreme this still reminds me of broadcast storms.

    • Davey Boy in reply to coyote.

      November 21, 2017 at 2:54 pm #

      Coyote, you need to stick to chasing road runner and leave the security work to the real pros…

      • Bob Covello in reply to Davey Boy.

        November 21, 2017 at 4:33 pm #

        Davey Boy:
        Thanks for the comment.
        Coyote (I wish he was brave enough to use his real name) is a frequent commenter on Graham's site.
        While I do not agree with many of his views, he is never intentionally disrespectful. (He has actually come to my defense on one occasion!)
        He is expressing a valid opinion, and often makes some reasonably contrary points, albeit in a rather meandering way, which appears hostile, but I am confident that his intentions are good. Or, at least THAT is how I handle the critics. ;-)
        Let's try to keep Graham's site free of invective, lest it becomes another trolling ground.

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