All an Internet scammer needs is a little therapy

I had just posted a laptop for sale on Craigslist and was immediately deluged with scammers trying to get me to ship it to Nigeria. This really intrigued me; is there a way to do something about it … that would, itself, be ethical? Or, not unethical? So for example, I really don’t want to steal from them; (scam the scammer.)

And then I had an awesome new idea for dealing with these people: I’d take whatever the scammer writes to me, and give it to ELIZA. And then, whatever ELIZA replies, I write back to the scammer.

“Kate”: Thanks for your great concern. I would…
ELIZA: What about your own great concern?
“Kate”: Dont worry, if anything happen to the computer, I will…
ELIZA: Why do you mention computers?
“Kate”: i mean laptop
ELIZA: Can you elaborate on that?

ELIZA is a famous computer program from the 70’s — an experiment in artificial intelligence. It imitates a typical annoying therapist who never really tells you anything, but just asks questions. PERFECT. Could I use this to waste a scammer’s time, keeping them from talking to potential victims? I was tired of talking to “Kate” about shipping my computer to Nigeria, and so I let ELIZA take over. So far the results are impressive. ELIZA quickly tuned into the scammer’s internal angst.

I love it. This is almost performance art. I wonder how long it will go on. Now it just needs to be automated, so I don’t have to copy and paste.

PS: If you need a little free therapy yourself, you can talk to ELIZA here.