You're expecting a package from Amazon, or from one of the package delivery services. An email pops into your inbox about a problem, and there's a link where you can get more information.
Only the email is not from any legitimate company. It's a scammer posing as the legitimate company.
While it's a big problem for consumers, it's a huge problem for the companies that are being impersonated. Their brand can suffer as a result.
MarkMonitor is in the brand protection business, on the lookout for cases where a client's brand has been misappropriated, for any reason.
“We are basically monitoring across multiple digital channels – websites, marketplaces, social media, mobile apps and emails,” Akino Chikada, MarkMonitor's Senior Brand Protection Manager, told ConsumerAffairs. “We're scanning through the entire internet looking for any potential online abuse of that brand.”
It's a never-ending job because scammers keep getting more technologically powerful. The latest wrinkle is the deployment of bots – web robots – to seek out and engage victims, meaning one scammer can become a million times more effective.
“As we know there is a significant number of bots driving internet traffic,” Chikada said. “A recent report found humans account for about 51% of traffic. The rest is driven by bots.”
Whole new dating game
And these bots have added a whole new dimension to the online dating scam. A decade ago, this scam consisted of an individual scammer seeking out and engaging a potential victim, building trust, then swindling him or her out of thousands of dollars. It was a labor-intensive and time-consuming enterprise.
Today, bots do the work, engaging males on Tinder, pretending to be females. Chikada says it's easy to program these bots to engage in dialog.
“They can remember user details like names, age, location, so it's easy to start engaging a victim,” she said. “They're definitely a lot smarter and more sophisticated.”
Tinder's popularity makes it a target-rich environment. Scammers are using bots to persuade victims to send them money, and also download malware.
How to spot a bot
How can you tell if the “person” you are engaging with on Tinder is actually a machine? If you pay close attention, you can do it.
Bots tend to type faster than the average human and yet they don't make as many typos. Also, responses can be generic and not always specific to what you have said.
The big tip off? Chikada says they will eventually ask you to do something for them, and it either requires clicking on a link or giving them your credit card information.
And finally, if the “person” is really attractive, you just might be conversing with a machine.