A couple of months ago, I was quietly playing my third walkthrough of Dragon Age: Inquisition and this time around, playing as a human warrior, siding with the Templars, and torn between romancing Sera or Iron Bull just for the fun of it. As I make my way through the world of Thedas, I was distracted by a notification that alerted me that I have received a new message on PSN. When I opened my inbox, I got a PM from an unknown user, and thinking it was one of my friends that is not on my contact list, I replied to the message.
When I realized that this user is probably a bored player that has nothing to do on their PS4, I did not write back and resumed playing Dragon Age. I totally forgot all about it until a few months ago, I received another message from a different user containing the same exact text I received before. I realized the unusual pattern and played along, curious on where the conversation would lead. At this point I am already suspicious that this user is probably involved in a phishing scam.
As my suspicions were confirmed, I immediately left the chat and blocked the user. I couldn’t get myself to click the link she’s insisting as I’m worried that the scammers would get access to my PSN information. The following day, I decided to write about this issue and a couple of my fellow writers told me that they have been getting these messages too. I tried looking online and discovered that numerous PSN users have been receiving the same messages as they posted their concern in Reddit and the PlayStation forums.
After playing along with some of these supposed “bored girls” and looking at the discussion gamers are having online, I came to the conclusion that these users are chat bots as the way they reply doesn’t come naturally, and even when you try to segue the conversation to a different topic, the chat will still eventually lead to the user sharing a webcam link.
The prevalence of these bots, though not entirely alarming, is definitely a growing concern in the PSN community. GameTyrant attempted to reach Sony regarding their stance on the issue and whether they are aware of the prevalence of chatbots in the community. The company is yet to give a reply, however, I couldn’t help and raise some of my personal concerns on the issue:
1.) Why do these chatbots exist in the first place? What security measures does Sony have to filter out PSN accounts that are controlled by bots?
2.) What is Sony’s action plan to prevent these users from successfully scamming people or having access to their information?
3.) How do we protect minor users from these harmful and pornographic links that are being sent by the scammers?
The best thing to do right now is to be extra vigilant on the people we are interacting with online. It is actually not that difficult to spot a bot user from a real one. The first thing you should look out for is the person’s username. If someone messages you with a name that seems suspicious like, “luckygirl_x15”, or “crzygurl93”, then chances are they are bots. Secondly, you can also check out the user’s profile and see the games they have played. If the profile is empty and has no record of any games played, then I can almost guarantee you that the person messaging you is a bot. Finally, the best and sure way to evade possible scamming is that if someone you do not know messages you, and you’re not expecting any message from a friend or acquaintance that is not on your friends list, then you should ignore and block if possible and change your privacy settings so that only your friends can shoot you a message.
Hopefully, Sony is on top of the issue and is taking the necessary steps in making sure that our accounts are safe from these scammers. However, we as users must also do our part by being extra careful on who we are talking to in PSN or any other online platforms because in the end, no matter how hard Sony, or any other company tries to secure their servers, these scammers will always find a way to go around those security defenses.
Have you received a message like this? What do you think Sony should do in order to filter out bot accounts from the real ones? Are we on the verge of another privacy issue in PSN?