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Chat-bots are sending false message around social media - beware

If you receive a direct message on social media that starts with, “Hi”, you are likely connected to a chat-bot, not a real person. Chat-bots are computer programs that troll social media for accounts on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others. They then generate message to accounts in attempt to gather personal information, ask for money or hack into accounts.

I spend 45 years in the computer field, decades of which involved physical and online security and privacy. I’ve engaged with some of these chats to see where they led.

After “Hi”, they ask how you you’re doing. If you make a response like, “Fine, I’m going on vacation to The gulf” the bot will say something like, “I’ve been to the gulf. What will you do?” A response like “Snorkeling” will cause the chat-bot to say, “That sounds like fun. Do you enjoy snorkeling?” It will ask questions and give responses in what can seem a conversion with a real person. The goal of the criminals who use chat-bots is to get personal information from you about where you live and what you do. The more data it collects, the more it can build a psychological profile of you to sell or use to exploit you.

Eventually, the conversation will get around to, “I’ve got something I want to ask you. Do you have WhatsApp so we can chat?” If it were a real person and they actually had a question they could just ask it in the direct message. You will often be asked to give an email address, a phone number or send money for some cause or problem.

These chat-bot messages can be found across social media. They may appear to come from a friend or follower. If you see the patterns above it may be a chatbot and your friend's account has been hacked. Look for the warning signs and be cautious.


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