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Ask Massively: Make the bad people stop

Kevin Stallard

After a 2 week hiatus, Ask Massively is back and crankier than ever.

In fairness, I had a really good reason for my absence the last 2 weeks, and I would apologize except I'm not remotely sorry. I think you'll understand.

On to business. In this case, old business.

Dear Massively,

I have a question that I would like posed to the people who defend gold-farming, and the accompanying in-game spam. I had placed a gold farmer on ignore (as is my habit), when I realized that I was receiving spam from them, again! I messaged them back and requested, (none too politely) that they stop messaging me, as I did not want to buy their golds.

The messages obviously continued, or I wouldn't be writing this message. So! My question runs thusly: How do you defend the harmless/can be ignored, etc. argument, when the gold farmers are obviously finding ways around the game's built-in protections from spam, and are continuing to annoy/harass players, even when they are directly asked to stop?



I hate spammers.

I'm guessing that I'm not the only one.

I hate to bore you with more credentials, but for 3 years, I was responsible for stopping, blocking, and gathering evidence against spammers for a major ISP in the United States. I have been on the front lines in the war on spam, and I have a little bit of insight into what makes them tick.

For starters, don't bother responding to spam, even to ask them to stop. In the case of in-game gold spam, you can rest assured that you are nothing more than a line in someone's automated script to hammer as many people as possible in as short a time as possible. Nobody will see your response, and they wouldn't care even if you told them "Cao ni ma" in as many languages as are spoken in the United Nations building.

Next, spammers wouldn't spam if it wasn't profitable. If you have ever purchased gold from an online site, then you are part of the problem. You are what we like to call in the business, the target demographic. Think of it another way. If spammers can advertise to 100,000 individuals before their account gets canceled, and by many estimates, that would be a low guess in a game like World of Warcraft, for the cost of a single user account. (For the sake of discussion, let's call it 50 bucks for the box + 30 free days) They would only need to sell a few hundred gold in order to recoup that investment. That means 1 or 2 positive responses to a spam run targeting 100,000 individuals. Now, instead of a .001% or .002% response rate, imagine getting .5% or even 1% return. If 500 or 1000 people come to your site and purchase gold then you would make back your costs several times over after a single spam run. Multiply that enough times to cover a player base of 11 million players and pretty soon you're talking about real money.

Step 1: Annoy the hell out of 99%+ of the server population
Step 2: ???
Step 3: Profit!

What can you do about it? Simple.

  • Never, ever, purchase gold online. Even "just this once" is enough to fund those jerks for another spam run.
  • Don't associate with players who do business (buying OR selling) with gold selling sites. Ostracize them to the point where it costs far more than dollars to buy gold.
  • Report every contact from a gold seller. Think of every cancelled account as 50 bucks out of their pocket.
Dry up the demand, and the number of suppliers will dwindle. Remove the profit motive, and the spammers will stop. You won't make them stop by yourself, but a journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step. If done en-masse, it will make a difference in the long run. There is no quick-fix for this.

If you're worried about having your account information stolen and used by those people, then take the necessary steps to protect yourself. Check for viruses and trojans on your computer. Use things like the Blizzard Authenticator, and encourage the developers of your favorite games to implement similar technology. Guard your account like it was your money, because to gold farmers, your account IS money.

If you have a question that you'd like to have answered in Ask Massively, then stop by our tip line or send an email to ask AT massively DOT com.

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