Several months ago a friend of mine shared with me a great trouble he got into - his bank account was drained by someone else. Completely. Imagine how surprising such an event could be - he went to withdraw money from an ATM and found that no funds were available in the account. As the ATM was just in front of an office of this bank, he went inside to check with a live person what was going on. The people at the bank simply told him that he spent all his money on Internet shopping. They also mentioned it was done using the services a large and well-known Internet company. Through its online store, people could purchase music, movies, software, service subscriptions and many more. Of course, my friend replied that he did not make these purchases and requested to get his money back.
The bank clerk replied "How do we know if the person making these purchases with your money wasn't actually you?"
My friend is actually a police officer, a chief of police in the town he lives. It is a small town, and the bank staff definitely knew who he was. When my friend told me how bank clerk replied, I commented that in this case I would reply "Okay, I will remember this, and if one day your bank office gets robbed and I have to investigate, then you will get the same answer".
While he is very good at police work and made the crime rate in the area to drop to almost zero, he is not that good with computers and doesn't know much about Internet. As a friend, I usually assist him whenever he needs help with Internet related matters and various gadgets. A man cannot be good at everything. What is important for the citizens in his Police District is that he is an exemplary cop and chief of police. Imagine the feeling of being a restless and very successful guardian of the society, and at the same time someone steals all your savings a way that is not quite clear to you. On top of it, your bank refuses to collaborate.
When I suggested that this story deserved some TV attention, he refused, by explaining that those over him in the police hierarchy could find the idea quite inappropriate. Of course I offered all my help on the matter immediately, but he turned down this as well. He said he didn't want to bother me with his problems, probably already regretting for sharing the embarrassing event with me.
A month later we met again on another occasion, and I asked whether he managed to resolve the problem. He shared that there were no news, since bank was refusing to help, and that the problem was bothering him a lot, causing harm to his professional motivation as well. I added salt to the wound by commenting "If someone does this to me, I will find him and will make compost out of him". Then once again, I asked for a permission to help him. This time he accepted.
The first thing I checked was the bank statement. I found that the bank was not sending any SMS or other notifications for small transactions under $100 each, and this allowed the hacker to perform a huge number of transactions within a short period of time. The bank of course, did not react in any way on this activity.
Also, I found that the account at that well-known Internet store was actually created by my friend, but with a single $3 USD/month subscription for access to music. As the account was created on the tablet of his 12-year-old son, I checked that tablet as well, and found that at some point there was an unauthorized access to the account, and the Internet store sent a mail notification - someone from Jakarta, Indonesia accessed the account (we are in Bulgaria, Europe). The issue here was that the interface of the Internet store was set to Bulgarian - of course, the store was providing interfaces in many languages, so that local customers can spend their money. However, the notification about the possible threat was in English. The 12-year-old boy didn't understand English well, so he did not react on the notification. A month later, the hacker changed the language of the account to Indonesian. The 12-year-old boy was simply listening to music, and not checking the interface regularly, so he didn't see this change. The hacker continued to use the account, and fortunately, one day the guy apparently forgot to log out, and at the same time performed a few searches on Google. One of his search strings was a very specific long sentence. I found exactly the same question, posted at the same time, in the support forum of the Internet Store. Thus I found the guy's name and username, which belonged to a person in Jakarta. Investigating that guy I found out that he worked as a support technician for... the same Internet Store! Interesting...
This was the time to contact the Internet store and here begins the "funny" part. After I wrote to them, two days later I got a reply that my client should contact them directly from his email address, and the mail service of this email address was actually provided by them. I replied that the account and the email service were obviously hacked, and I insisted they to perform an investigation prior to using this account at all. The next-day answer came with same text as their previous response, demanding that we write from the account mailbox.
My next step was to attempt to switch the interface back to English, so that I can better explain what happened. I had to learn a few words of Indonesian before I was able to change the language. Then I wrote to them again, with text, tables, and transactions attached. There is no need to mention that the answer came after more than 24 hours, and as the previous ones, it seemed like a completely automated message, full of nonsense. At first they said all transactions were cancelled, and then it turned out that they referred to transactions that were made later, when the bank account was already empty. Each and every request I was explaining the situation, but from the other side, I was getting canned messages, written by some kind of Artificial Intelligence. It was obviously missing intellect, so it was indeed too artificial. At some point I simply gave up.
Of course, I was quite tired and irritated by this one-and-a-half-way communication. A week later I got an automated email asking me how satisfied I was by their help. I replied that I demanded an answer from their Management, or at least anybody alive. No answer ever since.
Sadly I had to report to my friend that there was no way to communicate with that provider and offered him another solution. He authorized my lawyer to present him before the bank, and this worked out. In the end he got all his money back.
Still, the bad feeling of hours lost in attempts to initiate a communication with that giant Internet store remains. Things in life are not always black or white, so this experience was the final drop that made me change my mind about my strategy for ICDSoft - I realized that I possess a gem that I am hiding from the world for so many years while out there, there are people in need of a normal service, with an Intelligent Form of Support, that badly need what I have. This case helped me on my decision to make all this information on WebHostingWorld.com public.
I know that those business owners, who hire homo erectus instead of homo sapiens for support-related jobs in attempt to save money, are longing for the day they will substitute the live human beings with machines. To be honest, I also want to see a robot doing housekeeping at my home, as I believe we humans came to this world with a greater purpose. However, I cannot imagine a customer of mine relying on an "electric brain" for help about their web presence. While typing the words "electric brain", I smiled, remembering Cantonese words for computer - *din lou* means literally electric brain, but is very similar to *din lo* which also means "crazy man".
I know that Artificial Intelligence will advance a lot in the future and may outsmart us in many areas, but I know that using it for Customer Support service today is premature. The AI I mentioned today might be able to entertain my cat for a while, but it should be not used to serve humans.