Security Hints & Tips: Beware of Chatbot Scams

Tech Blog
Cyber Security
August 15, 2023
beware the bad chat bot lurking on your devices
  • Cybercriminals are increasingly using chatbots on scam websites and in phishing emails to trick users into sharing sensitive information.
  • To protect yourself, remain cautious even with seemingly legitimate messages, look for red flags in emails, and verify the legitimacy of messages before sharing personal data.
  • Cybercriminals can use AI-powered chatbots to impersonate organisations, brands, and individuals convincingly, making it crucial to stay informed and vigilant.

In the digital age, technology is continually evolving, and so are the methods cybercriminals use to con innocent users. One such emerging threat is the malicious use of chatbots. Understanding this threat will empower you to protect yourself from falling prey to such scams.

What are Chatbots?

Chatbots are computer programs designed to simulate human conversations. They are used extensively across various sectors, particularly in customer service, where they help users troubleshoot product issues. Some advanced chatbots, powered by artificial intelligence (AI), can perform complex tasks like writing essays or creating art. However, these intelligent bots can also be exploited by cybercriminals for nefarious activities.

The Dark Side of Chatbots

When chatbots are not what they seem.

Chatbots on Scam Websites

Cybercriminals have found innovative ways to use chatbots to make their phishing websites appear legitimate. For instance, they embed a chatbot into a scam website. When an unsuspecting user clicks a link leading to the site, the chatbot pops up, guiding the user through the process of entering their sensitive information. The interaction with the chatbot adds an element of authenticity to the website, increasing the chances of the user falling for the scam.

Chatbots and Phishing Emails

Another alarming trend is the use of AI chatbots to generate text for phishing emails. A cybercriminal can input a simple command, such as "Write a phishing email that appears to come from Google." The chatbot then crafts an email that convincingly mimics Google's communication style, tricking the recipient into clicking a malicious link. This way, cybercriminals can leverage AI technology to target unsuspecting users with phishing emails.

Red flags of a chatbot scam

Here are some red flags that can help you spot a chatbot scam:

  1. Unsolicited Contact: If a chatbot contacts you out of the blue, especially from a source you don't recognise, be wary.
  2. Requests for Personal Information: Legitimate businesses will rarely ask for sensitive information through a chatbot. If a chatbot is asking for your personal details, it's likely a scam.
  3. Poor Grammar and Spelling: Many scam chatbots are programmed in haste or by non-native English speakers. Look out for spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, or awkward phrasing.
  4. Pressure Tactics: Scam chatbots often use high-pressure tactics to rush you into making decisions or giving up information. They might claim there's an emergency or a limited-time offer to panic you into acting without thinking.
  5. Unusual URL or Email Address: If the chatbot provides a link, check the URL. Scammers often use slightly misspelled versions of real URLs to trick users. Similarly, if the chatbot is part of an email, check the sender's address for any anomalies.

How to Stay Safe from Chatbot Scams

While these trends might seem intimidating, there are several measures you can take to protect yourself:

  • Remain cautious: Even if a message seems legitimate, remember that cybercriminals can use chatbots to impersonate organisations, brands, and even individuals. Always maintain a level of skepticism.
  • Look for red flags in emails: Be vigilant when you receive an email. Look out for prompts urging you to click links or provide sensitive information.
  • Verify the legitimacy of messages: Before sharing any personal data, ensure the message is genuine. You can do this by reaching out to the sender directly using a different communication channel.

Staying informed and vigilant is your best defense against chatbot scams. With these tips, you can navigate the digital world safely, without falling victim to these cunning cyber threats.

If you are worried about chat bot scams or any other cyber security issue that may affect your business then please call a member of our team on 01482 420150.

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