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|Heads Up - Support Does Not Permaban Scammers
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|Author:||luny [ Mon Jan 30, 2012 6:10 am ]|
|Post subject:||Heads Up - Support Does Not Permaban Scammers|
I'm hoping to help avoid anyone else make the same incorrect assumption I did and find out the hard way.
Support's policies do not offer any more disincentive against using an account to scam once than a temporary ban. It's entirely plausible that the craftier scammers swap stories and are already well aware of this. You should be, too!
By current NCSoft/ANet Support standards and policies, a player found in violation of the rule prohibiting "defrauding others of in-game gold and items" gets temporarily banned, not permanently banned, unless they have a history of violations linked to their account already. If you submit a report to Support and they find a player in violation after their investigation, the response is a temporary suspension and an administrative mark on their account (which may or may not expire over time) even when there is no reasonable doubt that it may have been a case of an honest mistake or misunderstanding. An account has to rack up more than one such "mark" for fraud before Support will permanently terminate that game account. I'm doing what I can in other venues to make the decision-makers aware of this problem, but for the time being I think it's important that any player involved in trading understands this!
After playing GW over six years and being fairly active in trading for nearly five, I had always assumed that if Support found a player had, beyond a reasonable doubt, intentionally defrauded another of game gold or items ("scammed") then Support would take that player's account away for good. Like most players, I have plenty of ethical and practical reasons already to not steal or defraud someone else out of pixels in a video game. I've read the EULA and read stories over the years (from various sources including ANet staff) of people losing permanent access to their game accounts for violations like "unsportsmanlike conduct" (syncing in PvP) and botting. I always assumed that intentionally defrauding other players would be as unwelcome a behavior and, so, would carry equally severe consequences. I've done numerous "faith trades" over the years (things like multi-part all cash trades for amounts over 100k and using a third player to help two players with different schedules complete trades arranged via fansites.) I've been on both the trusting and trusted ends of such. I have always assumed (and sometimes even advised) that the certainty of losing your account would help serve to keep everyone honest and playing straight. This, as it turns out, was a dangerously incorrect assumption.
On Monday, Jan. 23, 2012, that assumption cost me 175 ecto (~1.4 million in fake-money.) PLEASE let me be the last one to learn this the hard way!
I'm describing exactly what happened to me so that you may understand the severity of what a scammer can get away with without losing their account for good. I am not especially concerned about my lost 175e (had I gotten the axe the scammer told me I was buying, I would still be 175e poorer anyway.) Regarding the individual scammer here, I'm upset that they will get to come back with that same account, and I suspect a "time-out" is not likely to change their opinion on the ethics and practicalities of defrauding other people of pixels. When their temporary suspension runs out, I predict they'll be back in game looking for the next victim - this is not likely to have cost anything they were upset to lose. (If you had no reservations about scamming other people out of pixels already, would a little forced vacation from the game change your mind?)
In case you're not familiar with "Serpent Axes" here are some pictures I've put together. Note that there is no way to tell for sure from the trade window if an inherent-modded "Serpent Axe" is the Tyrian instead of the Canthan version. (If you dye the Canthan one any color other than yellow, the icon will change color. Tyrian versions' icons do not change color with dye at all.)
On Monday, Jan. 23, 2012, I saw a player in game advertising with a line like the following line in trade chat:
"WTS > SERPENT AXE uninscr. Q9 Dual-mods <- (tyrian skin)"
I whispered him asking about it. In the trade window he showed me a max, gold-text, 15^50 inherent modded "Serpent Axe." I asked him how I could be sure he was selling the Tyrian-skin variant instead of the Canthan-skin variant. He offered to join me on a team to go outside to show me the skin. We went outside on the same team, and he equipped a Serpent Axe with the Tyrian skin. In team chat, I asked him if the axe he was holding was the same axe he was offering to sell me; he replied that yes, it was. I put 175e in the trade window; he put an inherent 15^50 max gold r9 "Serpent Axe" on his side; we completed trade. As I equipped my new axe and saw that it was the Canthan-skin version, exactly the opposite of what he had assured me he was selling, the player logged off. I thought how sad that was. There is no room to doubt he did that very much on purpose with significant planning ahead of time. I'll report him now, and he'll lose a game account with all three campaigns plus EotN (you can check anyone's HoM progress from that calculator!) for good ... all for 175e. (While I do not participate in nor condone RMT, nor do I follow the market of such especially close, even I know that the illegitimate real-money cost of 175e is nothing compared to the real-money cost of a full game account, not to mention the time and effort one must spend to develop it.)
The scam he was running had occurred to me already as a possibility, given there is no way to tell the skin version of the axe from the window. I figured as long as I made sure he wasn't simply mistaken about which version of the axe he had, he wouldn't be clever enough to come up with a scam like that and dumb enough to risk losing his whole account for 175e. I was the dumb one. Either the scammer didn't care or already was well aware that Support will not permanently ban for what he was doing.
I took screenshots, added his IGN to the friends lists on several of my own alternate accounts, and went through the process of submitting a ticket to Support. A few hours later, I saw him log back into GW from one of my alt accounts. I tested to be sure, and he was ignoring my main account with which he had traded. I whispered him from one of my alt accounts. I explained who I was on an alt account and that the axe he sold me was not the one he assured me it was and that I had already reported him for scamming while he'd been offline. I asked him if he'd made a mistake and wished to correct it now. I told him I would let support know if he traded me either the correct axe or 175e back for the wrong axe. He replied that it wasn't scamming and he had to go. He went offline and was back in a few minutes. This time, that alt account of mine was now on his ignore list, too. I let support know about that exchange, too. I was pretty sure this new account restore feature (single account rollback capability) is something their policy is to use only for cases of hacking and not for cases of fraud. Just to be sure, I asked if a rollback was possible on my account to restore my lost 175e.
On Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012, Support got back to me saying, "The player’s account has been suspended for defrauding others of in-game gold and items." The GM also told me that, as I had expected, a rollback of my account in this situation was not going to happen. I replied asking for confirmation that "suspended" meant the scammer was permanently banned from game on that account and would not be able to come back. The GM replied, explaining, "when an account is found in violation, a mark is placed on it. Each mark suspends the account for a given period of time and that period of account suspension rises with each subsequent mark against the account. Repeated violations, especially of this nature, will lead to permanent closure of the account. At this time, the block on "<IGN removed from quote before posting>" account is temporary" and sent me the following link to their official "Conduct Breaches and Outcomes" page.
http://www.guildwars.com/support/legal/ ... tcomes.php
I did not bother asking the GM how many more players this particular scammer has to defraud before risking permanent loss of the account, how long before he gets to log back in, or if Support will remove the ill-gotten 175e from his account during his break. (It was over three days between when I reported this and when Support banned him. From my alt accounts, I saw him logged in for at least several hours each of those days. Who even knows if he still has that 175e on his account in a form they could remove at all?)
Again, please understand that I include my story here only so that other players see how obviously premeditated and unquestionably intentional an act of scamming results in a temporary ban rather than a permanent account lock. I'm not seeking pity. I am outraged at the system ANet has in place and feel it puts the majority of players involved in trading at unnecessarily high risk. I'm doing what I can to help reduce that risk, that's all.
I will not publish the scammer's IGN here or anywhere else in public. If you want more details, I will provide them in private message or whisper with your promise that the information is only so that you can avoid him when he returns. In my opinion, there are far greater problems here than this one jerk. I neither request, condone nor support anyone, no matter how good your intentions are, take any kind of retaliatory action against this particular scammer. Nothing good comes of that. At best, you waste your time and/or Support staffs' time. (Realize the people investigating and handling support tickets are doing their job according to in-house policies they may have nothing to do with setting.) At worst, such actions will put the good-intentioned vigilante at risk of running afoul of some other game rules. I do not want either, both, or anything in between to happen here.
I doubt fansite forums are the place to petition ANet for changes, so I'm not going to bother doing that here. I am going to do everything I can think of to reasonably get the attention of the decision makers at ANet to explain my views that the system they've built here actually supports the few players who would scam by leading the majority of players who would not to make the wrong assumptions. If they won't reconsider their internal policies, then they need to make the majority of players aware of just how much a scammer can get away with before losing an account. (I'm also going to see if they can't push an update to make the two versions of "Serpent Axe" distinguishable in the trade window. They did it for "White Scythes" and "Dragon Scythes" in Mar. 2008 for the stated reason of "avoid[ing] confusion over their weapon type.")
Without or until such changes happen, I am feeling pretty compelled to warn every player I can ...
If your only thoughts about scamming are how to avoid and defend against getting scammed yourself, DO NOT assume Support has your back! Support's current policies are far more forgiving of scamming than you might reasonably expect. A scammer risks nothing more than a temporary ban as long he stays below some limit of the times and/or frequency that he is caught. That limit is more than just once.
Have fun & Please play safe!
|Author:||Maarten [ Sat Feb 11, 2012 1:56 am ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Heads Up - Support Does Not Permaban Scammers|
Ouch, that's a lot of ectos. This is especially strange considering I have actually been permanently banned once because of a naming infraction and two cases of advertising GW Auctions in-game. Even once after Gaile Gray stated it is allowed in moderation. I did get my account back after contacting support though. I guess that means it's three strikes out. Then again, it might be two strikes for fraud of this magnitude, there's no way to tell what the exact policies are (in a morally sound manner anyway).
I can't say I agree with all of ArenaNet's policies, but it's not easy to run support and keep everyone happy. It's a fine line between protecting the member base from rotten apples and banning valuable members of the community. If anything, ArenaNet is usually accused of being to strict (and hypocrite) when it comes to things like their in-game name and chat moderation policies. This clearly shows the other side of the story.
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