Email scammers are the worst, aren’t they? At best, their emails are a big, fat waste of our time. At worst, they actually succeed at bilking some unsuspecting person out of their hard-earned cash, thereby making the whole sordid endeavor worth their while. Fortunately, a New Zealand cybersecurity company called Netsafe has come up with an ingenious way of turning the tables.
Called Re:scam, the company built an email chatbot which responds to suspect emails by sending long, drawn-out replies from a proxy email address. Simply forward your next scam message on to email@example.com, and Netsafe’s chatbot will do its absolute best to waste the time of whichever villainous, money-hungry creep is at the other end — in somewhat hilarious fashion.
“Re:scam was created to raise awareness about scams, and to give people a way to fight back against them,” Netsafe CEO Martin Cocker told Digital Trends. “The bot engages scammers in a never-ending conversation until the scammer stops replying. The replies sent by the bot have been crafted to appear natural and to be difficult to detect. It also replies with different time delays to appear more natural. If a scammer engages in a conversation, Re:scam will let you know, and you can view a summary of the conversation. Over the last three days since Re:scam launched, we’ve received tens of thousands of emails from New Zealand and around the world. [As a result], Re:scam is currently having simultaneous conversations with scammers all around the globe.”
Cocker said that the concept behind Re:scam came from the insight that it might be interesting to try and flip the conventional wisdom, which states that chatbots should be both helpful and efficient. By making one that is neither helpful nor efficient, it provides an original approach to addressing a massive problem. As Cocker makes clear, “Scamming is a global problem that has no borders. It’s a unique problem that needs to be addressed in innovative ways.”
If that way just happens to involve a scammer being cheated out of a few hours of their time, assuming they are speaking to a gullible mark who is on the verge of handing over their credit card details … well, we’re not going to lose any sleep about it.