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18 Mar 2018 13:06
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  •   Home > News > Technology

    Bingo! NZ chatbot trolls scammers

    A NZ-designed chatbot is taking on email scammers by taking up inane conversations, ideally wasting their time instead of moving on.

    A New Zealand chatbot aimed at waste scammers' time is hitting headlines around the world for its wit and novelty in getting one back on those irritating email offers of millions of dollars.

    NetSafe's is offering a service Re:scam, which is designed to imitate victims and take up frustrating conversations with the scammer, delaying them moving on to another mark.

    People forward the scammer's email to, which first checks it is a scammer, and the artificially intelligent chatbot takes up the conversation, complete with Kiwi colloquialisms and grammatical mistakes to make it seem plausible.

    Examples included: "Dear Illuminati. What a wonderful surprise. I'd love to join your secret club. Do you do a bingo night?" was one reply to an offer of $5 million a week.

    One character offers to sending a scammer bank account details one digit at a time.

    "Dear Anastasia, getting married sounds like a pretty logical first step," quips another.

    Re:scam remembers who forwarded emails and sends them a transcript of the chatbot conversation.

    The chatbot's launch on Tuesday has been picked up by international media, with US news website Slate described the chatbot as "hilarious" while tech website Engadget enjoyed the idea of the frustration it would deliver to scammers.

    "Schadenfreude is one of life's simplest pleasures - especially when the victim in question is an email scammer," it said.

    There was no doubt scammers would develop technology to detect if they were being trolled, but Re:scam could also be adapted, says Netsafe chief executive Martin Cocker.

    Netsafe will have to crunch the numbers in future to see if it was making a dent in scammers' time, he told NZ Newswire.

    However, in the first 72 hours more than 20,000 emails were forwarded and between 5000 and 6000 conversations were started,

    "It seems to be working," Mr Cocker said.


    © 2018 NZN, NZCity

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