Many gamers have turned in-game item trading into a robust source of income. Some sell items that they cannot use for their character class. Others are just looking to unload the wealth that they have acquired before quitting the game altogether.
Unfortunately, there are also scammers in the gaming community who use cunning schemes to leave honest gamers high and dry. You should keep in mind that some publishers, including Valve, have refused to return items to players that they voluntarily gave up to scammers.
Gamers must be prepared to look after their property themselves. In this article, we tell you how to preserve the fruits of your hard grind, avoid common fraudulent schemes, and not bring down the banhammer.
Play by the rules
To begin with, not all developers allow users to exchange in-game items, much less sell them for real money. So before looking for a buyer for your Golden AK-47 or purchasing the Sword of a Thousand Truths, you should check whether doing so will get your account blocked.
For example, the developers of the MMORPG RuneScape prohibit the sale of both accounts and items for real money. There are several reasons for that, ranging from the legal (the game and the items in it are the property of the publisher) to security issues (accounts and items offered for sale are often stolen or obtained by dishonest means).
If you are caught in a prohibited transaction, you will be banned regardless of whether you are the seller or buyer; either way, you broke the rules. The chance that an item you paid real money for will be confiscated is also quite high: To the game administrators, this kind of transaction looks very suspicious, and it leaves you with no in-game proof of payment.
At the same time, trading armor, weapons, and other things inside the game as part of a general auction is usually not forbidden.
Let the buyer beware …
The second important rule is to trust your intuition and steer clear of trades that seem too attractive. Just like in real life, cyberfraudsters will try to win over your trust, and they will promise you incredible discounts to persuade you to part with your money or reveal your password.
There are several signs that should make you wary. Red flags include the seller rushing your decision, pressuring you into the transaction, or suddenly offering to move the discussion outside the official platform. Even if it’s a friend writing to you, beware: Scammers could have hacked their account or be using a character with the same name as your longtime buddy, but with a barely noticeable dot at the end.
Pay attention to the exchange window to make sure that the promised hundred thousand gold coins don’t become [Boar Tusk x 1] at the very last moment. And in general, be careful to check that you are being offered the exact item you want to buy and not just a similar one. And that the item is for the right game.
Some scammers have published items for their own games on Steam that looked exactly like way more valuable items for way more popular games. For example, some shady dude managed to sell a fake Dragonclaw Hook from Dota 2. The fake was a perfect copy of the original: same look, same name. The scammers even copied the description and logo of Dota 2.
The only problem with the fake was that it had nothing to do with Dota. The item could be used only in some game called Climber, which was later removed from Steam.
After several similar cases, the platform moderators began to pay closer attention to which game an item belonged, but it’s still a good idea to exercise due diligence and check everything in advance.
… but also be a smart seller
Scammers are looking to deceive not just buyers, but also the owners of valuable items. If another player asks you to “confirm the quality” of items by sending them, or promises to make a copy of an item, or simply asks to take your item for a test drive, then most likely they are trying to rob you. If someone offers game keys in exchange for an expensive item, you should also be on your guard; they’re probably stolen.
Game stores do not recommend selling items in exchange for real money using third-party payment services such as PayPal. However, if you still want to go through with a transaction, first make sure that the buyer can be trusted. Do you have even the slightest suspicion that they are trying to pull a dirty trick? Then call off the deal. Even if you have agreed on advance payment, a fraudster can retroactively cancel a transaction by complaining to the payment system’s support service, in which case you will be left both without the item, and your money.
Beware of third-party software
Sometimes, while negotiating a deal, a scammer will try to persuade you to install TeamViewer or, say, a voice-chat application. They say it’s to check that the product really belongs to you, or because it’s a more convenient way to communicate. The reason is just an excuse; in reality, the scammer wants to take control of your computer or infect your machine with malware. Refuse that request.
Tips to remember
Whether you are the buyer or the seller, protect your computer and account properly. If you get hacked, scammers will quickly monetize everything of value on it.
- Do not use the same password for online games that you use for other services;
- Do not click on any links to external sites from the game chat, and carefully check the address of any resource that requests you enter your username and password; the page may be fake;
- Never disable your computer's protection. Contrary to popular myth, certain antivirus packages will not interfere with your game’s performance. Rather, when you let them run, they will detect and block threats.