New Zealand designed chat-bot takes on email scammers

A New Zealand chatbot aimed to waste scammers' time is hitting headlines around the world for its wit and novelty in getting one back on those irritating email offers of millions of dollars.

NetSafe is offering a service Re:scam, which is designed to imitate victims and take up frustrating conversations with the scammer, delaying them moving on to another mark.

People forward the scammer's email to me@rescam.org, which first checks it is a scammer, and the artificially intelligent chatbot takes up the conversation, complete with Kiwi colloquialisms and grammatical mistakes to make it seem plausible.

Examples included: "Dear Illuminati. What a wonderful surprise. I'd love to join your secret club. Do you do a bingo night?" was one reply to an offer of $5 million a week.

One character offers to sending a scammer bank account details one digit at a time.

"Dear Anastasia, getting married sounds like a pretty logical first step," quips another.

Re:scam remembers who forwarded emails and sends them a transcript of the chatbot conversation.

There is no doubt scammers will develop technology to detect if they were being trolled, but Re:scam could also be adapted, says Netsafe chief executive Martin Cocker.

Netsafe will have to crunch the numbers in future to see if it was making a dent in scammers' time, he told NZ Newswire.

However, in the first 72 hours more than 20,000 emails were forwarded and between 5000 and 6000 conversations were started.

"It seems to be working," Mr Cocker said.



Strawberry crisis: Our strawberries are not the problem say New Zealand growers

As New Zealand authorities try to find the source of a "sordid and sick" strawberry needle contamination, the country's growers are talking down the discovery as an issue for the Australian industry.

NSW authorities are investigating more than 20 incidents of needles found in strawberries.
Source: 1 NEWS

Woolworths-owned supermarket chain Countdown on Sunday announced it was removing Choice brand strawberries, imported from Western Australia, from shelves across NZ after an Auckland customer reported discovering needles in their fruit.

It is the first such case reported across the Tasman.

The company said it had alerted authorities in Australia while NZ police and government agencies have also launched their own investigations.

Greg Newbold told Breakfast that copycat cases were inevitable. Source: Breakfast

It was not yet clear whether the needles had been inserted in Australia or after export, New Zealand Minister for Primary Industries Damien O'Connor told Radio NZ on Monday.

"It's the kind of sordid and sick proposition that does arise when these situations are publicised ... We hope that it would not be a New Zealander doing a copycat ... these will be the things that will be discovered," he said.

Mr O'Connor said he'd be looking at whether additional security measures had been taken around Australian product and whether there were any simple short- term steps that could be taken to assure consumers.

But while reports have suggested some New Zealand growers had already been eyeing metal detectors before the discovery, Strawberry Growers NZ executive manager Michael Ahern on Monday tried to allay the concerns of local consumers, talking the issue down as an Australian one.

"It is a concern, but we don't want to overcook it ... it's Australian product that's involved here," he said.

"We feel for the Aussie growers, so I don't like having to make such a blatant distinction ... But we need to remind our consumers that it's business as usual as far as we can see."

Earlier, in a message to potential copycats on the AM Show, Mr Ahern said there was a lot at stake.

"We've got a number of growers with their livelihoods on the line," he said.

No New Zealand-grown strawberries have been reported as contaminated. The local product comes into season in September and has begun appearing on supermarket shelves.

Countdown early last week announced it had halted imports of Australia strawberries to NZ for the season while competitor Foodstuffs ceased shipping them to its stores.

More than 100 reports of tampered fruit are being investigated by police across Australia, many of which are thought to be fake or copycat cases, while the federal government has ramped up penalties for so-called "food terrorists".

TODAY'S
TOP STORIES

Jacinda Ardern rejects Trump's call for war on drugs

New Zealand will not be signing the United States' document calling for global action on the war on drugs, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says.

Ms Ardern is in New York for the United Nations General Assembly this week, along with about 140 other world leaders.

US President Donald Trump is kicking off his week at the UN by holding an event to promote the US document called the Global Call to Action on the World Drug Problem.

The document requires the countries which sign to develop national action plans to reduce the demand for illicit drugs, cut off supply at their borders and strengthen international cooperation.

Jacinda Ardern with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
Jacinda Ardern with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Source: rnz.co.nz

US media are reporting that some countries will sign it, not because they agree with it but because they don't want to antagonise Mr Trump.

But Ms Ardern said New Zealand would not be among them.

"No it's not our intention to and there are a number of other countries who haven't either."

Jacinda Ardern said New Zealand had its own specific challenges around drug use, and it would prefer to take a health approach to the issue.

Ms Ardern met with the UN Secretary-General António Guterres this morning.

She said she reiterated New Zealand's support for his plans to reform the United Nations.

"Particularly given that from the very beginning we have always opposed to use of the veto, and continue to oppose it.

"Of course the [Secretary-General] has proposed other mechanisms to try and reduce the use of the veto and we support those."

Ms Ardern has meetings planned tomorrow with the leaders of Ireland, Colombia and Austria.

She will also appear on the The Today Show, an American breakfast TV show with an audience of four million.

Meanwhile President Trump has slammed the UN’s ability to sort out critical global issues. Source: 1 NEWS

TODAY'S
FEATURED STORIES

Startling video shows woman, child standing in Auckland car park to 'reserve' it, so driver can't pull in

Video and images have been posted online of two separate incidents where frustrated motorists were blocked from entering parks by people standing in them to reserve the space.

The practice is well documented overseas in countries like the USA, and is now being practiced by some in the increasingly sought after parks in Auckland.

A video posted online shows one such incident, which took place last week at the Westfield St Lukes Mall.

The driver repeatedly sounds his horn, but the woman will not budge, holding her concerned child behind her as she talks on the phone to someone, presumably telling them to hurry up and get to the park.

A commenter on the post said the woman eventually allowed the car to park there after a ten-minute standoff.

Another person posted images to a driver complaints page on Facebook yesterday showing a woman standing in a council car park on Auckland's Hobson Street.

A woman guards a public car park, reserving it for her friend, on Hobson Street.
A woman guards a public car park, reserving it for her friend, on Hobson Street. Source: Andy Chui

The woman reportedly waited there until another person arrived driving a late-model BMW convertible.

A car arrives after a woman blocked other motorists from entering it on Hobson Street in Auckland.
A car arrives after a woman blocked other motorists from entering it on Hobson Street in Auckland. Source: Andy Chui

Auckland Transport's Regional Compliance Manager Rick Bidgood said earlier this year that there is no legal basis for members of the public to reserve a park by standing in it, or by putting cones out.

However, Mr Bidgood urged drivers to consider giving up and finding another park in these scenarios, where the alternative could be an aggressive or even violent confrontation.

However, there are also no specific laws against people standing in a car park and refusing to vacate.

AA spokesperson Mark Stockdale said the AA was not familiar enough with the issue yet to make comment.

Online reactions to the practice were resoundingly negative, with most commenters indicating they thought parks should be 'first-in, first-served'.

"That happened to my wife and I and my wife just inched her way in....I was so proud," wrote one commenter.

"Bloody awful to see and she had her child with her to witness her behavior," said another.

One person pointed out there could be legitimate reasons for the reservation tactic.

"Perhaps someone inside is elderly and cannot walk far ... perhaps they need to load a heavy item ... just sayin," the commenter said.

The incident took place at St Lukes Mall, and eventually led to the woman giving up the park.


Three teens aged 15 to 16, charged after wild crime spree involving stolen cars, liquor store robbery

Three teenagers have been charged with multiple offences after a wild crime spree in Auckland this morning.

Police say three offenders stole a vehicle before using a tyre iron to smash the window of a liquor store on Dominion Road before fleeing the scene in a second stolen vehicle with several bottles of alcohol around 5am.

Two of those who were arrested and charged are 15-years-old, with the third aged 16.

After being called out to the liquor store robbery, police spotted the alleged offenders' vehicle and attempted to pull them over but they failed to stop.

Police then followed the vehicle through Mt Albert and observed a number of items being thrown out of the windows while it was driving at speed.

The driver of the stolen vehicle subsequently lost control and hit two parked cars before hitting a motorist in his car.

Two of the offenders were arrested at the scene of the crash. The offending driver fled and tried to hide in a nearby building in an attempt to evade the police helicopter. She was quickly located by a police dog team and arrested.

No one was injured however the driver of the stolen vehicle was later taken to hospital as a precautionary measure.

The three youths have been jointly charged with burglary and two counts of unlawfully taking a motor vehicle. Additionally, the driver is facing a number of driving charges.

They are due to appear in youth court today.

Police car generic.
Police car generic. Source: 1 NEWS