Email scammers lurk in all of our inboxes, preying on our ignorance and moments of weakness. While you might not fall for it, your grandma might, and that’s turned scamming into a billion-dollar industry. Right now, all you can do is mark emails as “spam” and delete them.
Until Re:scam, that is. It’s a new bot created by the New Zealand-based nonprofit Netsafe that replies to all your spam emails for you, tricking scammers into thinking that they’re hooking a victim. Except Re:scam simply asks each scammer more and more questions, engaging them in a never-ending conversation until they give up. All you have to do is forward your scam email to firstname.lastname@example.org and let the bot do its work. Netsafe hopes that its bot will waste hours of a scammer’s time and prevent them from deceiving as many people.
“Do you wish to be a member of the great illuminati family? Do you want to be [sic] payment $5,000,000 weekly? Let us now [sic] if you are interested in success,” says one scam email featured in a video about Re:scam’s skills. The bot’s response? “Dear Illuminati, what a wonderful surprise! I’d love to join your secret club. Do you do a bingo night?”
When the scammer responds that there isn’t a bingo night and prompts the respondent to send their bank details, the bot responds with glee, “Terrific! But to avoid detection I’m going to send my bank account details through one number at a time,” predictably driving the scammer crazy. You can explore more scam scenarios and the bot’s hilarious responses on its website.
Netsafe declined to comment on what kind of technology Re:scam uses or what data it was trained on, but it seems like a great idea–especially because the bot can respond to many emails at once. Since its launch last week, Re:Scam has responded to more than 22,000 emails, wasting an estimated two and a half months of scammers’ time.