Help This Email Bot Distract Scammers From Targeting Real Humans

iStock
iStock

Each year, online phishing scams cost Americans roughly half a billion dollars in stolen cash. One way to protect yourself is to train your eye to recognize fraudulent emails and delete them once they enter your inbox, but some experts recommend a more proactive way to deal with scammers: Engage with them. The idea is that the more time they spend answering your questions, the less time they’ll have to prey upon more susceptible victims. Sounds like a smart plan, but few people have the time or the patience to tackle the flood of spam they receive one message at a time. That’s why a New Zealand-based nonprofit developed a bot to help the cause.

According to Co.Design, Re:scam from Netsafe is designed to keep the person at the other end of the email chain distracted for as long as possible. Web users wishing to get in on the fun can forward their scam emails to me@rescam.org. From there, an artificially intelligent bot takes over the conversation. It’s programmed to ask questions that make it seem like an interested and naive respondent—a scammer’s preferred victim. But as the sample emails show, the scam never moves forward.

“Did I tell you I was moving?" the bot writes when it's asked to send its address. "We fell out with the landlord. Apparently we’re not allowed to have indoor plants in the attic cos it’s a fire hazard." It might offer to send Chevron petrol vouchers in place of cash, or to email a bank account number one digit at a time for security’s sake. It’s also capable of making bad jokes and typos just like a real person. “I understand the urgency. Time is money as they say. Does that make ATM’s time machine? Just a thought I had,” one response reads.

At some point the scammers will realize they’re being played and stop replying, but not before they’ve lost time that could have been spent going after someone else. So far, over 50,000 emails have been sent by Re:scam. All the while, the nonprofit has been analyzing the messages it receives so the data can be used to better fight scammers in the future.

If you’re lucky enough to have your inbox free of messages asking you to wire money to Nigerian princes, you can watch the video below to see how the technology works.

[h/t Co.Design]

Mountable Laserlight Projector Creates a Personal Bike Lane for Cyclists

Beryl, Kickstarter
Beryl, Kickstarter

All the blinking lights and reflectors in the world aren't enough to prevent your bike from disappearing into a truck's blind spot. But what if you could extend the length of your bike by an 20 extra feet with the click of a button? That's the concept behind the Laserlight Core, a product currently raising funds on Kickstarter, Fast Company reports.

Laserlight resembles a small flashlight, and it attaches easily to the front of your handlebars. When biking, you can switch it on to project a laser image of a green bike symbol onto the street several yards in front of you. If the driver of a van, truck, or bus can't see your actual bike in their mirror, the idea is that the light will make them aware of your presence. The projection is about the width of a bike lane, so it may also encourage drivers to give cyclists more road space than they would have otherwise. According to an independent study on the light from Transport for London, bikers with Laserlight are about 97 percent visible at night to drivers in vans (compared to 65 visibility with a standard LED light).

Emily Brooke came up up with the concept seven years ago as a design student at England's University of Brighton. After a frighteningly close encounter with a van while biking, she wondered if she could invent a way to get the attention of drivers even when she was stuck squarely in their blind spots.

Her product, originally dubbed Blaze, launched on Kickstarter in 2012. The campaign was a success, and now she's returning to the crowdfunding platform with a new-and-improved version of the item. Laserlight Core is easier to mount than its predecessor and it also projects a clearer image. You can reserve yours with a pledge of $75 or more with shipping estimated for December of this year. (It makes a great gift for the dedicated cyclist in your life, too.)

[h/t Fast Company]

Website Lets You Report Individuals Affected by Hurricane Michael to Search-and-Rescue Teams

Brendan Smialowski, AFP/Getty Images
Brendan Smialowski, AFP/Getty Images

When Hurricane Michael made landfall in Florida as a Category 4 hurricane on October 10, it became the strongest storm to hit the continental U.S. since 1992. Homes from Florida to Virginia have since been leveled and at least 11 people have died. With internet and phone lines down across the disaster zone, many people are desperate to know if their loved ones are safe—now there's an online tool that can help them.

If you're having trouble getting in touch with someone who was in the hurricane's path, you can report them through a new website set up by the Florida National Guard, First Coast News reports. The site asks for the person's name, gender, age, and address, as well as any life-threatening issues they may be facing, such as low oxygen or medication supplies. After you submit their information, the State Emergency Operations Center forwards it to the relevant local agency doing recovery work.

Michael moved back over the Atlantic as a post-tropical storm Friday morning following its rampage through the southeastern U.S. More than 1000 search-and-rescue workers have already been deployed in Florida alone, and the death toll is expected to rise as clean-up efforts continue across the region.

[h/t First Coast News]

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