WARNING: Buying World of Warcraft (WoW) accounts on eBay or via Paypal is very dangerous. This is the first in a series of articles on how to identify these scams and how to protect yourself.
I previously posted that eBay should have a flag option like craigslist. This would help. So, in the interest of explaining how messed up this stuff is, I will show the anatomy of a really bad eBay scam. (Well really, it is more like a scammer.) The proliferation of fraud related to virtual items is a significant problem. It’s perpetuated by three things:
- eBay’s stance on virtual items. Which, to the best of my understanding is: they don’t get any protection because they aren’t real. I find to be really silly given that eBay is one of the biggest web companies and virtual items are a big, high value market.
- Paypal shares eBay’s position on virtual items. I guess this isn’t surprising since eBay owns them.
- The game companies (particularly Bllizzard) perpetuate fraud by not allowing secure character and gold transfers. Look, I know some of these companies are purists, but the reality is that people are going to buy/sell these accounts. They can let their customers (people that want to play their games enough to pay) get ripped off or they can facilitate these transfers and make money. They are in denial about reality.
OK, so now you know why these scams exist. Let me show you one.
On eBay right now, I can do a search on “curulet2007” (you have to do an advanced search with the box checked for Search title and description) and get these results:
- WoW World of Warcraft 8/9 Tier 3 Warrior + Thunderfury
- 10 x Nintendo Wii Consoles – Special Lot .BRAND NEW.
- WOW World of Warcraft 7/9 Tier 3 Priest – Full Atiesh
- World of Warcraft WoW 60 Rogue 8/9 tier3 Kingsfall r14
- World of Warcraft WoW 60 Hunter 8/9 Tier 3 – 70 Epics –
Now, you’ll see that there for world of warcraft accounts there. Each has 7/9 or 8/9 tier 3 (which is very hard to get) and one of the best possible weapons for it’s class. It would be impossible for one person to have created all these characters. These accounts should be going for $1000-$1500 (if they were real). Except in this case they are all the same guy using several different eBay accounts. You can look at each one, he uses the following ids (in the same order as the auctions above):
Only scutumboy and powerjunkie68 have any feedback that still links to an auction. Scutumboy actually looks vaguely real since it has (1) feedback and that feedback is selling a $500 remote controlled car set. Powerjunkie68 bought a “fake doctor’s excuse” $9.99.
This is another important way to detect fraud. (The first being a seller listing several items that he can’t possibly have.) I look at feedback and click the links. If the person has just bought a bunch of < $10 items that look useless they are probably just racheting up their feedback for the big score. It looks like this guy probably rotates accounts at a frequency that makes it difficult to spot what he has been doing.
Virtual goods are also difficult in feedback, because in some cases the seller can “steal them back”. In the case of World of Warcraft accounts this is thanks to Blizzard’s policy since they do not recoginize account changes the original owner can just call up, request a new password, and boom the account is their’s again. At that point you have limited recourse. You can’t even go give the seller negative feedback if you already gave them positive feedback. So they can just sell it again!
BTW, the same thing pretty much happens if they give you nothing – you don’t have a lot of recourse. Although you can leave them negative feedback in this case, since they never gave you anything.
In some cases you can do a chargeback on your credit card which forces Paypal to refund your money. This doesn’t work if your Paypal drafts from your bank.
Anyway, back to the fraud. In every listing he says contact firstname.lastname@example.org before bidding. This is usually a bad sign. If they don’t want to be contacted through the eBay channels, that is usually a big red flag.
There is one more thing that sets off the fraud alert in the case described above. The 10x Wiis listing. I went and looked at that as I was looking at all his listings (when spening money on virtual goods it is important to do as much research on the seller as possible). So when selling Wiis and PS3s it is common (it used to be required, but I’m ont sure if it still is) to show a photo with your receipts and a written note with your eBay ID – to prove they were yours. Well, the 10x Wiis here are listed under the “lisar915” eBay ID and the picture has the ID “alexmichalas” in it. Woops! Run away. BTW, a quick search for ebay member “alexmichalas” reveals he has been selling Wiis (in Europe) and has the exact picture in all his listings… with, shock, no mention of “curulet2007”.
So, here we have one scammer spotted and identified. Of course, I can’t tell eBay about it or flag it. So what should I do?
- Write this blog post.
- Stop people from getting scammed.
So I attempted to contact kotura (331) who has a current bid of $1,425 on the 8/9 T3 Warrior (first listing). It’s the only one with meaningful bids. BUT, get this, I can’t contact this person because I have had a transaction with them – I might be trying to rip them off. Oh, the irony!
So I tried to keep this buyer from getting ripped off. It almost makes me want to start a “verified” eBay listing or something. Or eBayFraudAlert.com. But really, eBay should be doing this.