Chatbots are programs that simulate a real conversation with a user or help solve various issues without the participation of a real person. Now they are becoming more and more popular in messenger apps, and are used by many companies to improve communication with customers and take the burden off managers. With the help of chatbots, you can make bank transfers, book accommodation, order food, get answers to frequently asked questions about the work of a particular company, etc. In general, they’re useful tools if used for good. But this is not always the case.
Recently we’ve seen an increase in the number of chatbots on dating sites. Programs literally impersonate real users, and they do it so naturally sometimes that it’s impossible to understand whether you’re communicating with a living person or a computer algorithm. Even worse, chatbots are increasingly being used by fraudsters to obtain personal data from users or fraudulently extort money from them.
We’re here to investigate what chatbots are capable of in the wrong hands, how to understand that you are communicating with a program, and how not to fall for the tricks of scammers. You’ll hopefully find it interesting and useful.
Where chatbots live
There’s a simple pattern: the more popular the dating site or application, the higher the risk of meeting a chatbot. The undisputed leaders in this regard are Tinder and Badoo, but lately, even less popular sites are becoming home to fraudulent bots.
The deception is usually simple, even primitive. But it is precisely this simplicity that makes a person stop being vigilant and get seduced by a soulless algorithm. One of the most typical fraud processes is as follows:
- You get a “match” with a supposedly real person, and you start communicating.
- At first, communication remains inside the site or application, but then the other user (chatbot) offers, for example, to go to another platform. And sends you a link.
- You, having trusted the other ‘person’, follow the link and get to a phishing site. What happens next depends on the individual site. Some will ask you to enter your personal data in order to continue using the site. Some require you to verify your account and make a minimum “test payment”. But in fact, a large amount will be debited or your credit card will be used to subscribe to paid services without your knowledge.
If you think that this is a type of fraud that is unlikely to be successful, be prepared for a surprise. According to research by the PerimeterX company, more than 70% of men click on links sent to them by girls on dating sites. That’s a lot of people. Yes, many are able to recognize the fraud in time and stop. But not all of them. Unfortunately, sometimes falling in love and the euphoria of chatting with a beautiful and interesting person blinds you and doesn’t allow you to soberly assess what’s happening. If you’ve ever found yourself in a similar situation, you’ll understand what this is about.
How to recognize a chatbot and not let yourself be fooled
Sometimes chatbots communicate so naturally that it is almost impossible to work out that this is not a real person in front of you. Moreover, they constantly learn and improve, recognize humor, and take into account the general tone and context of the conversation. In general, they do everything the same as a living person. But there are still ways to recognize a chatbot.
Pay attention to photos
Chatbot profiles most often use photos of models or just professional pictures of beautiful girls. Checking for stolen photos is not that difficult. For example, in the Chrome browser, you can use the image search function. If the same photo is found in numerous photo libraries or on other sites, it’s likely you have a bot in front of you.
Complicate the conversation with complex sentences
Chatbots are imperfect. They easily understand simple short phrases, but as soon as you write a complex, long sentence, they start to get confused, and their answers become illogical or strange. The easiest way to recognize a chatbot is to ask where their profile photo was taken. The bot does not know what’s shown in the picture and will betray itself immediately. You can also try asking two-part questions. Sometimes even a full stop in the middle of a sentence can confuse a bot.
See how quickly the other user answers you
Bots often respond instantly or at the same interval, often no matter how long the sentence. If the speed of responses seems unnatural to you, that’s a reason to be wary.
If you start to suspect that you have a bot in front of you, try sending the same simple message several times in a row.
If you have a bot in front of you, it will most likely also respond with the same phrase. In general, the repetition of the same phrases in a conversation should alert you.
Keep track of not only WHAT the other user writes, but also HOW they write
For example, the same typo appears in the same word every time — a missing letter, an extra space, a capital letter in the middle of a word, etc. Repeating identical mistakes is a clear sign of a chatbot. However, perfect literacy can also indicate that you have a bot in front of you.
Pay special attention to the links that they send you
It’s better not to follow any links at all. There’s a high chance they are trying to lure you to a fraudulent site. If you’re positive there’s a real person in front of you, be careful anyway. Examine literally every letter in the link, and if, for example, instead of facebook.com, you are asked to go to faceebook.com or fasebook.com, stop communicating immediately, block the user and send a complaint about them, if the option is offered. There’s a scammer in front of you.
Invite the other user to chat via webcam
Fortunately, more and more online dating platforms are now implementing video chat functionality, so you don’t have to switch to other sites. But for convenience, you can use Skype, Zoom, Viber and so on — whichever is more convenient for you. The chatbot will find every possible way to refuse to talk via video, using prepared phrases.
If you want to save time and not try to guess whether this is a real person or a regular computer algorithm, you can simplify your task a little — use random web chat sites instead of dating sites and applications.
Use online video chat sites instead of text chat
The easiest way to avoid falling for the tricks of the chatbots is to communicate via video. Random video chat sites like Omegle and its rivals are ideal for this. Of course, there are plenty of scammers in Omegle too due to its rather poor moderation. But it is much easier to recognize them than a chatbot in text chat.
For your own safety and privacy, we recommend that you explore the popular Omegle alternatives with the best moderation — Ome.tv, Chatrandom.com, Bazoocam.org, VideoChatOmegle.com. Here the situation is much better and there are far fewer risks of falling for the tricks of scammers.
And a few more helpful safety tips:
- Never transfer money to anyone, regardless of the pretext (pay for the Internet, top up the account on their phone, etc).
- Do not communicate with users without a profile photo or with random images.
- Stay vigilant if the other person very quickly begins to profess attraction to you or even confesses their love.
- Pay attention if a person suddenly writes nonsense or their words sometimes look as if they’re out of the correct context.
- Do not send any compromising materials to your chat partners on dating sites and applications — they can be used against you.
Be vigilant in general. There are more scammers on the Internet than you think. And no one is fully protected from them. Your safety is entirely in your own hands.
The bottom line: is it worth dating on the Internet at all?
It’s definitely worth it! Already today around the world more than 17% of all marriages begin with online dating. And these are millions of couples who would never have got together if it were not for the Internet. There is no doubt that their number will only increase in the future.
There’s no need to be afraid of online dating. These are tremendous opportunities to expand your social circle and find people who you’d never randomly encounter offline. You definitely shouldn’t deny yourself such promising opportunities. You just need to be attentive and careful, follow our advice and not be too naive, and then success is much more likely!