Chatbot-Scams - Stealing personal information

Chatbot-Scams

Stealing personal information

Michèle Trebo
by Michèle Trebo
on September 07, 2023
time to read: 6 minutes

Keypoints

Caution of Chatbot-Scams

  • Fraudulent chatbots have the appearance and behavior of legitimate bots
  • imitating chatbots is used to deceive users to obtain sensitive information
  • manipulating users by applying pressure and feigning urgency
  • skepticism, vigilance, and hiding sensitive information can protect

Even today, when technology makes everyday life easier in many ways, not all advances are without risks. One of the emerging threats in the online fraud environment is the chatbot scam. A masterpiece of deception, criminals use chatbots to interact with potential victims and engage them in fraudulent activities. This sophisticated form of fraud takes advantage of the ongoing development of artificial intelligence and automated communication to gain people’s trust and trick them into revealing personal information, transferring money, or otherwise becoming victims of financial or identity-related crimes. Here, we discuss in more detail how chatbot scams can be detected and what protective measures can be taken to develop a more comprehensive understanding of this threat.

Definition Chatbot-Scam

The term chatbot-scam describes fraudulent activities in which chatbots are used to deceive and financially harm users. Often, a chatbot scam masquerades as a legitimate customer support application to gain the trust of victims. These fraudulent chatbots can be used on social media platforms, messenger services or websites to lure their victims. Chatbot scam operators use sophisticated algorithms to conduct automated conversations and collect personal information from unsuspecting users. A common goal of chatbot scams is to steal sensitive financial data such as credit card information or banking details. Another common chatbot scam is trying to trick victims into clicking fake links or downloading malware. The operators of these fraudulent chatbots often use social psychological tactics to create confusion or pressure victims into making quick decisions.

Recognizing chatbot scams

Recognizing a chatbot scam requires some attention and mindfulness. To protect yourself from such fraudulent activities, you should pay attention to some important signs:

  1. Unrealistic Speed – Chatbot scams are often designed to output automated responses in seconds. If you notice that the chatbot is responding unusually fast without processing the requests appropriately, it could be a scam attempt.
  2. Standardized answers – Since chatbot scams use predefined texts, they tend to respond to questions and concerns with generic, non-tailored answers. Real customer support agents, on the other hand, can respond to queries in a more customized and specific way.
  3. Failing Empathy – Fraudulent chatbots are not programmed to show empathy or provide emotional support. Real customer support representatives, on the other hand, can show understanding of your feelings and needs.
  4. Requesting personal information – If the chatbot asks you to disclose personal or financial information, such as credit card number, passwords, or social security number, then you should be extra careful. Reputable companies would never request such information through chatbots.
  5. Grammar and Spelling Errors – Chatbot scams can often have errors in their responses, as they cannot perfectly mimic human speech patterns. So, if a lot of grammar or spelling errors are noticed, you should be suspicious.
  6. Suspicious URLs or links – Fraudulent chatbots might try to get you to click on links that lead to phishing websites or malicious software. Be extremely cautious if the chatbot sends unexpected links.
  7. Repeated Phrases – If a chatbot repeats the same phrases or questions over and over again, this indicates that it might be an automated response. Real customer support agents would focus on variety and individual conversations.
  8. Missing contact information – Reputable companies usually provide clear contact information where you can reach the real customer support. If this information is missing from the chatbot, it is a warning sign of potential fraud.
  9. Inappropriate pressure – Fraudulent chatbots may try to pressure you to make quick decisions, such as sharing your personal information. Real customer support representatives would never pressure you to take such actions.
  10. Unknown sender – If you have contacted a chatbot but are not sure who the sender is or what company it is from, you should not give out any personal information and instead reach out to the company directly using a verified contact option.

Protection from chatbot scams

To protect yourself from chatbot scams, several points should be considered.

  1. Be skeptical of unexpected messages from unknown senders, especially if they ask for sensitive information or money.
  2. Verify the identity and authenticity of the chatbot or sender before sharing personal information or responding to requests.
  3. Never share personal or financial information through a chatbot unless you are absolutely sure it is a trusted source.
  4. Do not click on suspicious links sent to you via chatbots. Make sure links are from reputable sources before clicking on them.
  5. Initiate contacts with companies or service providers yourself through official channels rather than responding to messages from chatbots.
  6. Do not be pressured to make quick decisions. Criminals often use urgency to catch victims off guard.
  7. Use reliable antivirus and anti-malware software to protect yourself from malicious links or downloads.
  8. Stay up to date on current scams to make better-informed decisions.
  9. Only interact with known and trusted chatbots or platforms. If you notice suspicious activity, report it to the appropriate authorities or platforms to protect others from potential threats.

By following these steps and developing a cautious approach to online communication, you can significantly reduce your risk of falling victim to a chatbot scam.

Summary

Chatbot scams are becoming more sophisticated and harder to detect. Criminals are using chatbots to engage victims in fraudulent activities. This advanced fraud method uses artificial intelligence and automated communication to establish trust and steal personal information. Recognizing signs such as rapid, emotionless responses or prompts to divulge sensitive data is crucial here. To protect yourself from chatbot scams, healthy skepticism is in order. Verifying sender identity and rejecting sensitive information and suspicious links are equally important. To counter this growing threat, close cooperation between Internet users, companies and authorities is essential to strengthen digital security. At the same time, however, it is also everyone’s responsibility to proactively protect themselves from chatbot scams and contribute to the collective security of the online community.

About the Author

Michèle Trebo

Michèle Trebo has a Bachelor of Information Technology at ZHAW and worked six years as a police officer in the field of cyber crime investigations. She is responsible for criminal research topics like darknet analysis, cyber threat intelligence, fraud investigation, and forensics. (ORCID 0000-0002-6968-8785)

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