Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Guild Scams

I really wanted to touch on this topic for a while, but this is something that really bothered me when it happened to me, and it's happening again on my server, and I think it's ridiculous that Blizzard does not do anything about it.

Disclaimer: I knew the risks of buying guilds, especially in sketchy situations, and took them anyway.  That part is 100% on me. This is mainly a critique of how Blizzard dealt/deals with it.

Guild Scams
Telling people you will sell them a guild, and taking their gold for nothing is apparently a legitimate method of making gold according to Blizzard, so this is indeed a gold making post in case anyone was wondering.

Story time!

So earlier this year in February, someone was selling a level 25 guild with 7 tabs on my server.  After getting an invite to the guild on an alt and using Sapu's Guild Bank Macro to evaluate the tabs, I found there were over 29,000 g worth of goods in the tabs, including lots of current mats/gems etc.  The guild also had a few hundred members who were active, so a fairly valuable guild, a rare find on my small server.

To recap: ~30,000g in goods, 19,350g worth of purchased tabs I'd be saving, and active members. I offered 40k, feeling I could sell what was in the Guild Bank and get a nice profit from the resale of the guild.  He wanted 50,000 and wasn't willing to budge.  Looking back now to that period on my previous gold totals graph, I had 1.45 million, 50,000 being ~3.5% of that.  This of course doesn't justify the stupidity that occurred next, but provides some context.


So he said that he wanted the 50,000 up front before the transfer.  Now this had set off all sorts of RED FLAGS for me, it went against all the advice of "half before half after" and similar ideas I had read up on in this Guild Buying Thread at The Consortium.  Regardless I sucked it up and said "Screw it, it's only ~3.5% of my total capital, I can afford to lose it" knowing I could get screwed, and obviously this is how it ended.  He got the 50,000 gold, paused for about 60 seconds, then promptly kicked me out of the guild and put me on ignore.

Things Get Hairy
Of course right after this happened I was a little taken aback.  The first thought I probably had was "Well, crap."  To pour salt in the wound the guy immediately went to the AH and bought a Vial of the Sands and started flying around Org.  I probably whispered him some choice words from an alt, and immediately proceed to open up a ticket.  I of course gave a very detailed report, as you can imagine if you've read my blog.  Screenshots, time stamps, the whole kit and kaboodle.  I got this response from Blizzard, emphasis by me:
First off I sincerely apologize that I was unable to speak with you directly, and for the wait you have had. >.< However, you have come to the right spot, and gave us all the info we needed!
We have investigated the player you have reported, and are taking the appropriate actions. Because of privacy concerns, we are unable to disclose the nature of the action taken.
Due to many variables involved with item reimbursement and types of issues, restoration is not guaranteed. We have made every effort to verify your particular case, but unfortunately, we were unable to provide the restoration of money as guild sales are considered an unsupported transaction. We are sorry for any inconvenience you may have been caused. While we will make every effort to provide assistance in cases of loss, the decision to go forward with a restoration is entirely at Blizzard's discretion.
*Clarification: When they say guild sales are an unsupported transaction, it means just that, they're unsupported.  They are not however against the ToS such as trading an in game item for real world currency. 

"Appropriate Actions"
This is where I start to take fault with Blizzard's response.  They said they had taken appropriate actions, but when I logged in later that day after this response, the character in question was playing, not even a 24 hour ban slap on the wrist.  He was once again in trade chat, still trying to "sell" his guild.

Does it seem like the appropriate actions were taken?  When I logged on, there was already a character decrying him in trade chat, so I whispered them to see what happened, and they told me a similar story to my own.  In my opinion, justice was not served.  Not to even mention that he still had the Vial of the Sands listed in his armory (although the removal may not have been recorded there if it was indeed removed).

I completely understand why Blizzard has a policy of not supporting transactions like this. Selling guilds as commodities is not exactly promoting "community" in the game, and surely you can not drag a guild into the trade window and hit trade.  I do take offense that when someone, in whispers in game, says they'll trade you 50k for a guild, and takes the 50k for nothing is still in trade the next day pulling the same scheme, and Blizzard still does nothing about it. They at most got a 3 hour suspension, according to Blizzard's Penalty Volcano.


IMO as it was his second infringement, it should have been at least a 24 hour suspension.  It's all fine that the GMs dealt with it the way they did, it's not their fault, but I think it's a poor stance by Blizzard to let scammers know that doing this is acceptable, and will only get them a slap on the wrist at most.  This guy was in trade chat for weeks after this event with the same scheme.  For a while I had a macro responding to it and warning others, in a personal attempt to thwart his scamming, and filed a follow up report to Blizzard to which I received a canned response telling me that I should use the in game reporting system.

"Restoration"
The gold issue I actually got resolved eventually.  Another (perhaps friendlier, or perhaps realizing my persistence) GM in a follow up ticket refunded me my 50,000 gold.  He noted that it was a 'special case' and most likely would not be repeated if future stupid trades occurred, which is completely understandable through Blizzard's current policy.

Not all had been restored though.  This guy was still in trade pulling the same scam, and surely eating up more of Blizzard's Customer Service time, and when was enough going to be enough?  He started going around to other guilds trying to "sell" them, not even in a GM position this time, but eventually it stopped, and business carried on as usual.  I had assumed he was eventually banned for all this, but lo and behold, he shows up a week ago (6 months later), in trade, still selling the same original guild from the same account!

Blizzard's Responsibility
I think that Blizzard should crack down a bit on this, or it has the potential to get out of hand.  Knowing that I could do this, I could theoretically quickly make a lot of gold.  I have a level 25 guild on Tichondrius, which I purchased from WoWProfitz a month or two ago when he quit WoW.  I could easily snap up a couple buyers, I've sold a similar guild on that server for 25k in the past already.  I could get the 25k from one guy, keep spamming in trade, get another 25k or even more, buy myself a Sky Golem and all it will get me is a slap on the wrist.  Sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

The fact that the scammer's account is still active upsets me on a personal level.  The fact that he's still advertising the same scheme in /2, 8 months after the original infringements, is unacceptable to all WoW's players.  It's clear that not only were Blizzard's actions in his case not enough to deter him from doing it again, they were also not enough to make him think he'd have any negative repercussions after a (at least) third try.

Cheers,

Phat Lewts

If you enjoy my blog follow me on twitter, @PhatLewtsGold!

14 comments:

  1. This infuriates me. Getting action taken against scammers and gold sellers, even with 100% ironclad evidence in hand, is nearly impossible. This needs to get more attention.

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  2. Unsupported transactions --- not much you can really do, and in your case, I think you're quite fortunate to have found a sympathetic GM. As you pointed out, you should've never given him the entire sum up front, but even so he still could've just settled with 25k of your gold.

    "Sounds like pretty good deal to me."

    Yeah, if you don't give a s$%t about how your actions affect other human beings. While the player who scammed you is completely in the wrong, a con artist is only a con artist so long as he/she can find a target to unleash their scheme upon. Unsupported transactions, whether gold for game time, store mounts, or guilds, will never be safe and there's no real way to change that.

    As far as clogging up the CS system, you need a willing, albeit scammed buyer for that, too --- so it goes both ways. Personally, I wouldn't engage in unsupported transactions unless the seller is someone you know and trust.

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  3. Thanks for an interesting story. It is sad to see that Blizzard doesn't put this type of activity high on their priority list. A lot of scammers are out there from all sorts of areas just trying to make people's lives in-game miserable. *shakes head*

    In the end, I wish there could be some type of neutral reporting system, like a citizens' arrest deal, where someone could be granted authority to remove people like this immediately. Imagine the amount of cases people get?

    I was in a dungeon run last night and one of the tanks reported another because they needed on the gear that he wanted. I was like,, wtf? HUH? Why am I reading this from babies....can't we just finish this dungeon and move on? These guys went back and forth like a bunch of school age kids. Very strange.

    I'm glad you got your gold back and saw a little justice...but I'm with you bro....

    To all those who get involved in this type of transaction...tread lightly and cautiously!

    Be well,

    Profitz (Ray)

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  4. while it may be a "viable option" I couldn't bring my self to try it since my morale compass doesn't point to evil.. just because you can get away with something, doesn't mean you should. Sad that this is what people are willing to do to sell their souls..

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  5. I'd be tempted to offer to buy the guild again and get retribution somehow. How you could do that without risking a ban yourself though is the big question.

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    1. There's nothing bannable on my end, that's not what "unsupported transaction" means in this context. Added clarification to the post on that matter. I could do it again although I think the sympathy from the GMs would be far less this time around!

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    2. I think he was more implying you engage in a fake purchase agreement, join the guild, and try to retaliate (ruin him/the guild somehow) without ending up banned yourself for your behavior (for your revenge).

      But, I can't imagine they'd be stupid enough to give you TOO high of privileges during your visit, so I'm not sure realistically what you could do.

      Not that I am advocating revenge.

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  6. I bought an active level 25 guild but didn't pay until I was the GM. There is nothing ethically, socially, or game wrong with buying/selling a guild. This kind of thing happens in real life... why not in game? You should only join a guild you trust. If they sell it out from under you to a 3rd party, then obviously you shouldn't have trusted them. Don't blame the guy who bought it.

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  7. Why should Blizzard do anything about it? Like you pointed out, you knew the risks. They have better things to do than cover for someone's stupidity.

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    1. So this guy should be able to continue doing this until he's gold capped?

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  8. These transactions happen all the time in the real world, through Craigslist and other online buying/selling sites. If someone pays money and does not get the merchandise, then there is a legal matter that has penalties. That's not because the buyer was "stupid" but because the seller was deceptive and dishonest.

    If its a crime in the real world, and worthy of the time and attention of the police, then I think its deserving of similar attention in Azeroth.

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  9. "Screw it, I can take the loss" I think is the most dangerous of all things for those of us who are gold capped/in the position of being sufficiently wealthy to engage in risky behaviours like this.
    Having learnt my own lesson painfully I've learnt when I think those words - avoid it.
    (I had a tearful story, in our guild vent of an unwanted/unloved gift of the store mounts for sale purchasing which placed me in breach of the TOU unknowingly -- ironically as the buyer you fill the " gold seller" role in the equation; he wanted the gold for raiding gear so he could get on the roster.... I ended up both without cash and without mounts after he sought a refund on his credit card..)

    I completely agree with phat that there should be some better increasing "ban" for repeat offenders as for weeks and months afterwards - still on occasion now, I see the same seller repeating the same trick in trade, or hear of him doing the same thing in another guild. It is not in blizards interest to be ban heavy as these players are active and often long term subscribers to the service. Unlike real life where the protection of the community provides gains to the service provider, events such as these are unlikely to make those who can afford to "screw it" leave the game. Unhappy, yes. Leave? ... unlikely - we invest too much time and effort in our gambling or addiction to the money making schemes.
    Just my 2 copper...

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  10. Actually, this comes under the scam policy and he is breaking ToS, he should be banned, it happened to my cousin in a key for gold buying and got restored, while the other party was never seen again. But yes, it mostly depends on the mood of the gm in turn.. i knew another scammer that did something similar and after being reported several times by lot of people, includin my whole guild, he kept doing it. Eventually he disapeared, i think it was a discarded account as he would add you through real id so you could see "he was legit", don't think he got banned.

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  11. So he was the only officer in the guild? Did you try contacting other guild members/officers to get him kicked out?

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