This A.I. Chatbot Will Get Revenge on Email Scammers For You

Bothered by spam and phishing emails? This bot can waste months of a spammer's time, and produces some hilarious results... and you can use it for free right now. 

This A.I. Chatbot Will Get Revenge on Email Scammers For You
Mr Robot (USA Network)


$12 billion is lost globally to phishing scams. While you may believe you could easily figure out that the email from your grandma who is desperately asking you for money is not really an email from your grandma, not all phishing scams are that obvious and many people fall for them. In fact, a 2015 survey done by Intel Security covering 19,000 respondents from 144 countries, revealed that a staggering 80% misidentified at least one phishing email.

Now, Netsafe, a non-profit organization in New Zealand with a focus on online safety, is fighting back. With their new initiative called Re:scam, Netsafe has deployed a well-educated, artificially intelligent chat-bot that can take on multiple personalities and engage in correspondence with scammers, wasting their time indefinitely or until the scammers themselves realize they are being scammed.

The exchanges can be hilarious. Here is a sample of the bot's replies from a rather long email thread between the bot and a scammer posing as The Bureau of African Affairs and looking to extract personal and bank details. 

“Hi, was this letter supposed to go to me? It all seems quite a wee bit official like. I’ve never been beneficiaried before. Just want to make sure I’m who I am before I get too excited.”

“How soon can I expect to receive these funds? I owe a pretty significant amount to Readers Digest and need to pay them back before they take legal action.”

“Do you mean your business days or our business days? What time zone are you in?”

“I understand the urgency. Time is money as they say. Does that make ATM’s time machines? Just a thought I had. Anyway. Keen to move this along.”

Engaging with the bot leaves less time for scammers to engage with real people. In addition, the emails that the chat bot receives help to develop its vocabulary and knowledge of scams. These emails also help with the collection of data about scammers’ locations and activities.

Netsafe’s CEO Martin Cocker says:

“Everyone is susceptible to online phishing schemes and no matter how tech savvy you are, scammers are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Re:scam will adapt as the scammers adapt their techniques, collecting data that will help us to keep up and protect more people across New Zealand.”

In just a few days Re:scam has already sent 26,609 emails and wasted more than 3 months worth of scammers’ time. So far, the longest exchange between a scammer and a chatbot was 20 emails long.

To help the fight against scammers, instead of deleting your scam emails, you can forward them (old or new) to me@rescam.org and Netsafe will engage in a conversation on your behalf from a proxy email account.

They will even send you a summary of the conversation the bot has had with the scammer and, as Netsafe writes on their website, “sometimes they can be quite funny!”

Here's a great example of one below: 

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An international team of astronomers has conducted the biggest survey of stellar nurseries to date, charting more than 100,000 star-birthing regions across our corner of the universe.

Stellar nurseries: Outer space is filled with clouds of dust and gas called nebulae. In some of these nebulae, gravity will pull the dust and gas into clumps that eventually get so big, they collapse on themselves — and a star is born.

These star-birthing nebulae are known as stellar nurseries.

The challenge: Stars are a key part of the universe — they lead to the formation of planets and produce the elements needed to create life as we know it. A better understanding of stars, then, means a better understanding of the universe — but there's still a lot we don't know about star formation.

This is partly because it's hard to see what's going on in stellar nurseries — the clouds of dust obscure optical telescopes' view — and also because there are just so many of them that it's hard to know what the average nursery is like.

The survey: The astronomers conducted their survey of stellar nurseries using the massive ALMA telescope array in Chile. Because ALMA is a radio telescope, it captures the radio waves emanating from celestial objects, rather than the light.

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"This just hasn't been possible before."

Over the course of the five-year survey, the group was able to chart more than 100,000 stellar nurseries across more than 90 nearby galaxies, expanding the amount of available data on the celestial objects tenfold, according to OSU researcher Adam Leroy.

New insights: The survey is already yielding new insights into stellar nurseries, including the fact that they appear to be more diverse than previously thought.

"For a long time, conventional wisdom among astronomers was that all stellar nurseries looked more or less the same," Sun said. "But with this survey we can see that this is really not the case."

"While there are some similarities, the nature and appearance of these nurseries change within and among galaxies," he continued, "just like cities or trees may vary in important ways as you go from place to place across the world."

Astronomers have also learned from the survey that stellar nurseries aren't particularly efficient at producing stars and tend to live for only 10 to 30 million years, which isn't very long on a universal scale.

Looking ahead: Data from the survey is now publicly available, so expect to see other researchers using it to make their own observations about stellar nurseries in the future.

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