On an average day, over 90% of the chat in Jita's local channel is people posting copycat scams, with legitimate offers completely drowned out. There may not even be anyone at the helm with these scams, as a script could easily paste the scam message every few minutes for an entire day. Not confined to Jita, these scams are often replicated across all of the game's main trade hubs and popular mission-running systems. Knowing how these scams work is the first step to protecting yourself from making an expensive and extremely embarrassing mistake.
In this week's EVE Evolved, I explain the trick behind five of EVE's most common copycat scams and how to protect yourself from them.
#5 - Renamed ships
Renaming ships is one of the oldest scams in the book, and it usually requires a little social engineering to pull off. The scammer will offer to sell a faction ship, such as a Bhaalgorn, Rattlesnake, or Raven Navy Issue, and may even link the ship in chat. When you contact him to buy the ship, he'll trade you a standard non-faction version of the ship that has been unpackaged and renamed to the name of the faction version. The buyer will see a raven in his trade window with "Raven Navy Issue" below it and might mistake it for the real thing.
If you're offered a faction ship through direct trade, remember to check the ship icon for the green corner with a white diamond in it that appears on every faction item and ship. If the ship has no stack number, that means it's been unpackaged and may have been renamed. Always insist that ships be repackaged before trade or use safer contracts. A clever scammer will trick his mark by placing a legitimate ship in the trade window and then distracting the mark by haggling over price. The scammer can then close the trade window and decline the mark's offer, and then re-open it with a fake ship when the mark makes a counter-offer.
#4 - I will send you back 10x
The day that the 10x scam appeared in EVE was the day Jita's local chat channel became truly unsalvageable. In this scheme, the scammer announces in chat that he is giving away ISK to people who demonstrate trust in him; just send him some ISK, and he'll send you back 10 times that amount. There are countless variations of the scam, each with its own fake reason for giving away billions of ISK and some offering only double returns. Players will often test the scammer by sending small amounts of ISK, and if the amount is small enough, the scammer will sometimes return 10 times the minuscule amount on the chance that the player testing will assume it's legitimate.
Although this scam is extremely obvious, scammers have used various tricks over the years to make it more believable. The most common trick is the use of accomplices who claim that they received their ISK as promised. The scammer will sometimes recruit players he's duped to act as stooges in exchange for the promise of a cut of the profits or the return of their ISK. The scammer may also periodically link random names from local chat and state that ISK has been sent to them. Most people don't read the chat and so won't see their own name being misused, and nobody ever contacts the linked players to confirm the scammer's story.
#3 - Fitted ship, minus the ship
One of the most common contract scams you'll find is a ship sale that's unexpectedly missing the actual ship. A real contract for a fitted ship will contain all fitted modules and rigs, with the ship at the bottom of the list. Scammers will often post a contract containing all the expected fittings for a certain ship and claim that it's the fitted ship. If you don't bother to scroll down to the bottom of the contract to confirm that the ship is included, you may fall victim to the scam.
Scammers sometimes include an item at the end of the contract that is similar to the name of the ship, such as selling a Charon freighter that turns out to be a single unit of carbon and a few freight containers. A more subtle version offers a rigged ship but actually contains a ship with three cheap rig blueprints in its cargo hold.
#2 - Always read the small print
In a moment of tiredness, even the best of us can accidentally misplace a zero or misread billion as million. Scammers prey on those mistakes by making it very easy for you to accidentally lose a lot of ISK with one error in judgment. The latest scam of this type involves a player saying that he's selling faction frigates for a million ISK through a programme sponsored by some corporation. Three contracts will be listed, and if you check the first two, you'll find that they really are on sale for a million ISK. Both will be expired contracts that were completed days ago, and the third will be an active contract for a billion ISK.
A player will typically check the first one or two contracts and believe that the deal is genuine but that someone beat him to it. When he checks the third and sees it's still active, he may be in such a hurry to snipe the deal that he misreads the price. Other contract scams involve presenting a wanted advert as if it were a sale or saying that there are multiple of an item while there's only one. Always read contracts thoroughly before you accept them. The amount you'll pay will be in the "You will pay" section, and the items or amount of ISK you'll get will be in the "You will get" section.
#1 - If it sounds too good to be true...
As the old saying goes, if something looks too good to be true, it probably is. Have you ever seen a contract selling an obscure item, and when you checked the market, you found buy orders up for over double the price? Double-check the minimum units on the buy orders and you'll usually find they require ten or more of the item at once while the contract supplies only nine. You'll be unable to sell the items once you've accepted the contract, but that isn't where the scam ends.
The scam relies on players' thinking they've found a way to outwit the scammer by completing the set of 10 items and then fulfilling the overpriced buy order. The trick here is that the scammer has trained the skill Margin Trading, which allows him to launch a buy orders even if he can only fund 25% of it. If you try to fulfill the scammer's buy order and the ISK isn't present in his wallet, the order is canceled and you're left holding the bag. This scam is so subtle that it looks absolutely legitimate to a lot of players.
a core part of the EVE universe, and as the playerbase grows, it's only natural to see dozens or hundreds of obvious copy-cat scams flooding the trade chat. Jita local chat in particular has been next to worthless for picking up actual deals for years now, and you really are better off minimising and ignoring it.
Most of the scams you'll see are obvious, like the infamous 10x scam or renamed ship trades, but some are so subtle that even a veteran player can be caught out on a bad day. The next time you see a deal that seems too good to be true and you can't figure out where the scam is, it's probably best just to give it a miss.
Special thanks to EVE player Zothike for this week's column idea!
Brendan "Nyphur" Drain is an early veteran of EVE Online and writer of the weekly EVE Evolved column here at Massively. The column covers anything and everything relating to EVE Online, from in-depth guides to speculative opinion pieces. If you have an idea for a column or guide, or you just want to message him, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.