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Scammers Continue to Wreak Havoc in MMO's

CmdrTaco posted more than 6 years ago | from the but-i-need-my-virtual-gold dept.

The Almighty Buck 330

eldavojohn writes "We're all well aware of the scams that sometimes happen in online games like Eve Online. But despite this looking primarily like a problem with Eve Online, the MIT Technology Review brings us stories from Second Life and the very real $700,000 (USD) in Linden Dollars that has recently disappeared in what is appearing to be a classic ponzi scheme by a company named Ginko Banking. Unbelievably high interest rates coupled with some shady withdrawal limits leads to classic epic losses to investors. Eve Online was merely virtual currency but Second Life has a real monetary value associated with Linden Dollars & therefore is certain to see more and more scams pop up like this. How can Linden Labs set up a safety net to catch things like this?"

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They shouldn't (5, Insightful)

Icepick_ (25751) | more than 6 years ago | (#21883458)

Let people be stupid.

Re:They shouldn't (5, Insightful)

PowerEdge (648673) | more than 6 years ago | (#21883486)

That'd be nice and all... But in 1st life, people are losing homes for being caught up in schemes, not being "smart" about their purchases, etc. and real action is being taken to punish those who defrauded such "rubes". For some reason or other the Gov't and people in general frown on swindling.

Re:They shouldn't (4, Funny)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 6 years ago | (#21883576)

You have a point there. They should probably make it illegal to be stupid to cover these problems.

Re:They shouldn't (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21884132)

Or, we can make fraud illegal, rather than arbitrarily deciding that people who were lied to must be "stupid". Otherwise, as frauds get bigger and more involved, everyone ends up being stupid. You could get a whole army of accountants and banks to tell everyone that what you're doing is perfectly legit. Enron, anyone?

Re:They shouldn't (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21883748)


That'd be nice and all... But in 1st life, people are losing homes for being caught up in schemes, not being "smart" about their purchases, etc. and real action is being taken to punish those who defrauded such "rubes". For some reason or other the Gov't and people in general frown on swindling.


They are losing homes that they can't afford, never could afford, and never should have bought.

Now, losing a home is sad and all, and the lenders are scum, villains and crooks who should be punished, but I find it hard to see folks who never could afford the home that they bought as victims.

More like co-conspirators.

Re:They shouldn't (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21883872)

How il-liberal of you, holding a potential 'victim' accountable.
Now, go say 50 Hail Marx's and sin no more.

Re:They shouldn't (1)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 6 years ago | (#21884028)

Who's liberal here? Last time I checked [slashdot.org] we're all libertarians.

Re:They shouldn't (1)

Sigismundo (192183) | more than 6 years ago | (#21884166)

That's a pretty interesting poll. I guess that I'm not surprised that 34% of slashdotters identify as communist, socialist, or liberal.

Re:They shouldn't (0, Flamebait)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 6 years ago | (#21884280)

Slashdotters, communists? Maybe because we're more intelligent than average so we don't buy into the Red Scare "capitalism = freedom" nonsense.. but other than that why would you think slashdot is communist? I could see anarchist, but I guess those NSA wiretap stories scared people into voting libertarian ;)

Re:They shouldn't (1, Informative)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 6 years ago | (#21884082)

That's actually more of a conservative than liberal philosophy.

The liberal/communist theory is to have the government and the world protect the fool and his/her assets.

The conservative/capitalists idea is the "your money, your responsibility" philosophy.

You might want to go back to school.

Re:They shouldn't (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21884348)

And you might want to work on your reading comprehension, you condescending prick. Parent was saying that GP was NOT being liberal.

Re:They shouldn't (0)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 6 years ago | (#21884386)

I figured that out later, but the post was even more obtusely written than most of mine.

That's pretty sad.

Re:They shouldn't (5, Insightful)

PowerEdge (648673) | more than 6 years ago | (#21883932)

I agree 100%. Though there was definitely predatory lending and people buying on supposed "house payments" not understanding that taxes, and resets would in effect triple payments in a short couple of years. People buying said homes sometimes were expressly ignorant, or thought they could easily get out of the house when they no longer could afford it. Lots of people lost money in the 1990s and early 2000s due to VC and Media hype on xyz.com IPO. Lots of smart people lost a fortune. It happens. Due diligence is always necessary when forking over hard earned, real money. Unfortunately many people are gullible and are sold a pack of lies. Those selling the pack of lies should be prosecuted and punished. Personally, I fault the Government Schools and Parents for creating the environment we have today. People are manufactured stupid now.

Re:They shouldn't (2, Insightful)

syrinx (106469) | more than 6 years ago | (#21883804)

For some reason or other the Gov't and people in general frown on swindling.

Unless they're the ones doing the swindle... [ssa.gov]

Re:They shouldn't (1)

Sigismundo (192183) | more than 6 years ago | (#21884194)

I had never thought about it that way, but you're right that SSA does have a lot of similarities with a Ponzi scheme [wikipedia.org] .

Re:They shouldn't (3, Funny)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 6 years ago | (#21883892)

"For some reason or other the Gov't and people in general frown on swindling."

Gov't has a monopoly on swindling and can't afford the competition.

Re:They shouldn't (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 6 years ago | (#21884248)

Gov't has a monopoly on swindling and can't afford the competition.


Then how come they let so many corrupt and swindling companies exist? Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of companies that don't do this, but a large majority seem to be all about separating fools and their money to line the company coffers.

Re:They shouldn't (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 6 years ago | (#21884478)

Greedy Corporations are Government sanctioned entities. They are nothing more than legal constructs of the Gov't, and help facilitate the swindling on behalf and for the Gov't.

Other than that, I'd agree.

Re:They shouldn't (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 6 years ago | (#21884480)

I think it's called "bribery"

What do you think "special interest" really means?

Re:They shouldn't (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21883554)

Now, is that supposed to read "They shouldn't - comma - let people be stupid" or "they shouldn't let people be stupid"? If the latter, I'm most interested in hearing your proposal - perhaps it can be applied IRL. I'm surrounded by bozos 24/7.

Re:They shouldn't (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21883624)

So, you think it should be legal for a financial service company to open, take people's money on promise of repaying interest, and close up shop taking the money, in the real world? Because it isn't.

Re:They shouldn't (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 6 years ago | (#21884406)

Well it's not legal to go out and kill people either, real world laws don't always apply to games.

Re:They shouldn't (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21883628)

Not all scams are created equally. A frequent scam involves getting players to execute an exploit that installs a keylogger, then sniff the account password and steal the account directly.

Most companies will work with players who have been hacked, but not all. (Specifically, Final Fantasy Online was apparently hacked to include an exploit on their official web site, which caused accounts to be stolen. Squareenix then refused to return stolen accounts to players. It was in the firehose a while back, but wasn't posted.)

In Second Life it's actually a bit worse since Linden dollars are worth US dollars - people lost actual money, instead of just some game character.

The scams in the story don't appear to involve actual hacking, but some scams start in-game where players will try and get people to visit sites with keyloggers.

Re:They shouldn't (4, Insightful)

shawn(at)fsu (447153) | more than 6 years ago | (#21883646)

"A fool and his money are soon parted."
--Thomas Tusser

Re:They shouldn't (1)

Icepick_ (25751) | more than 6 years ago | (#21883898)

Tip of the hat sir. Much better put.

Re:They shouldn't (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21883648)

Their entire business model is defined by people practically lining up and clamoring to be stupid. Bring on the scams and the stupidity; every time I see a CNN article covering some stupid "virtual event" in Second Life, I can't wait for the trolls to show up and disrupt/destroy it.

Welcome to the internet folks. We're not always nice here.

Scam the trolls. (1)

Four_One_Nine (997288) | more than 6 years ago | (#21883796)

Can we please now come up with a way to scam all of the MyMiniCity trolls? That would be sweet.

Re:They shouldn't (5, Insightful)

CrankyFool (680025) | more than 6 years ago | (#21884010)

Hardly.

If we treat this as a moral or ethical issue, we can reasonably argue that we should let people learn, the hard way, how to be responsible for their own finances, especially in an environment where the actual exposure is relatively minimal (the person they covered lost $144 in this scam, and she apparently made all that money by doing things she liked doing on Second Life anyway -- we're not talking about not being able to pay rent here).

But it's not a moral or ethical issue -- it's a commercial issue. If Linden Labs wants to encourage people to treat Lindenbucks as real money -- and clearly, they do because otherwise they wouldn't set up an exchange rate to the real deal -- then they've got to deal with what is essentially a threat to their profitability. If they don't set up a system where it's safe to exchange money for other tangible goods (and stocks or CDs are tangible), then, in fact, people will learn to protect themselves -- by not transacting with their money and essentially putting their virtual dollars under their virtual mattresses. This is not an outcome that is ideal for Linden Labs -- which is why, regardless of ethics, morality, or "think about the children (or stupid people)!", they should do something to create some sort of reliable, authenticated commerce system that allows for these activities -- out of sheer self interest.

Re:They shouldn't (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 6 years ago | (#21884174)

Especially if we extend "They" to Real as well as Second Life.

Re:They shouldn't (3, Informative)

rednip (186217) | more than 6 years ago | (#21884416)

Let people be stupid.

" Before the Wall Street Crash of 1929, there was little regulation of securities in the United States at the Federal level." [wikipedia.org] , banking also has strict regulation. Now we find that, ('surprise') tight(er) controls on Investing/Banking in the virtual world is also needed. However, thanks to the 'containerized' nature of these virtual economies, I believe that federal regulation is not needed. Instead these communities need to consider getting some real professional advice before allowing this sort of activity. Not merely checking to see compliance with the appropriate laws, but using their experience and insights to create 'internal' regulation and a quick response to new threats. I would suggest that they actively pursue programmers from regulated field as well as legal staff.

To survive, virtual economies like real ones, need to have the people's confidence.

Re:They shouldn't (5, Insightful)

gowen (141411) | more than 6 years ago | (#21884492)

Yes. And while we're at it, why not let little old ladies be weak, and let the much stronger muggers take their money.

I mean, if they deserved that money, they'd be strong enough to still have it, right?

If the smart should be allowed to scam the stupid, why shouldn't the strong be allowed to steal from the the weak?

It's a game (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 6 years ago | (#21883488)

Let people lose if they play badly or win if they're smart. I mean, this ISN'T gambling or maybe a tax scam, right? Right?

Re:It's a game (1, Informative)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 6 years ago | (#21883608)

Second Life doesn't isn't really a "game." It's more like a "virtual world."

Re:It's a game (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21884140)

Oh, good Lord... Get a REAL life.

So if it's a virtual life (1)

tkrotchko (124118) | more than 6 years ago | (#21884290)

Regardless of it's a game or it's a virtual life (which is more or less the same thing), the is that it's not real. If people do something dumb in a virtual life or get scammed, I assume that's the charm of the game. It doesn't affect the real person in a significant way, any more than dying in a video game.

People should take it as a learning experience and be grateful their mortgage wasn't on the line.

Re:It's a game (3, Funny)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 6 years ago | (#21884298)

Do you mean a *voice deepens* metaverse?

Re:It's a game (5, Funny)

Chubby_C (874060) | more than 6 years ago | (#21883658)

It is a game, the game allows it so it should be fair play.

People have to watch out for this in real life, they should watch out for it in second life

The scammers are obviously better players

Re:It's a game (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21884106)

Except that in real life there are real life penalties for stealing things that are worth money. Since the money's currency has an exchange rate in terms of real life money, there is a crossing over. Of course if the government is expected to protect people's online currency, they probably will want a piece of it (and probably deserve a piece)

Re:It's a game (2, Insightful)

Tazmaster75 (977942) | more than 6 years ago | (#21884336)

Keep the federal oversight out of our games, please.

You may not have had a choice in entering this world, but you certainly have a choice about playing a game. And putting real money into a game in the form of Linden Dollars is also a choice.

One word... (1)

Facetious (710885) | more than 6 years ago | (#21883490)

Vigilantism

NIGGERDICKS PENETRATING YOUR EAR (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21884238)

zomg niggerdicks

EVE Online is a different monster (1)

OS24Ever (245667) | more than 6 years ago | (#21883498)

EVE is a place where scamming is almost encouraged short of a few exceptions.

It's amazing how often people fall for it.

Some are as simple as:

Hey, I'd like to join your corp
Really? what ship do you a fly
a
you have to give it to the corp, contract it to me and we'll let you join.
OK
Sucka!

and there is nothing the person who was just dumb enough to give a ship to someone recourse wise, as designed.

Now you scam a character, and you have a paper trail, they'll reverse it, but pretty much anything is fair game.

Re:EVE Online is a different monster (2, Interesting)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 6 years ago | (#21883558)

That's what makes Eve so fun to play for complete assholes and so not-fun to play for non-assholes.

That game attracts more pricks than a porcupine petting zoo.

Re:EVE Online is a different monster (4, Insightful)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 6 years ago | (#21883814)

I'm sorry, Eve has real consequences for failure. It's wide-scale PvP, in a way that actually makes roleplaying make sense.

Compared to the endless grind of City of Heroes or World of Warcraft... well, finding a way to deal with scammers in Eve is what makes it the only MMO worth playing.

Re:EVE Online is a different monster (1)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 6 years ago | (#21883900)

finding a way to deal with scammers in Eve is what makes it the only MMO worth playing.
So it's a MMOPG? Massively Multiplayer Online Psychology Game?

I'm sorry, but I just don't see how that has as lasting appeal as perfecting a character build or maybe building social networks.

Re:EVE Online is a different monster (1)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 6 years ago | (#21884394)

I'm sorry, but I just don't see how that has as lasting appeal as perfecting a character build or maybe building social networks.
you misunderstand.

If you want to make a "perfect character build", find a perfect ship build.

If you want to build social networks -- well, how do you think we avoid the scammers?

Re:EVE Online is a different monster (1)

ultranova (717540) | more than 6 years ago | (#21883928)

Compared to the endless grind of City of Heroes or World of Warcraft... well, finding a way to deal with scammers in Eve is what makes it the only MMO worth playing.

One would imagine it not taking much searching to find the "fire" button ;).

Re:EVE Online is a different monster (1)

Broken scope (973885) | more than 6 years ago | (#21883882)

I'm not a complete asshole, yet eve is rather fun.

Of course IM sure that more than one miner ,hauler ,or logistics thinks I'm an asshole. But that what you get for being in an alliance involved in the current game wide war.

I do enjoy killing pirates though.

Re:EVE Online is a different monster (1)

WeeLad (588414) | more than 6 years ago | (#21884448)

I think that actually makes the game a bit more fun. If I didn't have to keep one eye out for malicious human players, then mining would just be boring grinding for resources. As it is though, the paranoia of an attack at any second keeps the game full of suspense.

If Linden Labs wants a virtual world (1)

ls671 (1122017) | more than 6 years ago | (#21883580)

If Linden Labs wants a virtual world, they will need to set up a virtual NSA, a virtual FBI etc. and I guess use the same techniques one would use in the real world ;-))
This would also mean they will have to start to charge virtual income tax and other taxes as well if they don't already to pay for those services;-))

Re:If Linden Labs wants a virtual world (1)

Bryansix (761547) | more than 6 years ago | (#21883632)

No, they should charge a fair tax only on things purchased new.

Re:If Linden Labs wants a virtual world (1)

FLEB (312391) | more than 6 years ago | (#21883960)

Then there's the problem of enforcement, especially when the profit is worth some more expensive evasion techniques. You don't have the force of much IRL law, and you can't completely reliably ban or punish a physical person when they can get a new CC#, a new IP address, or many other evasive measures, and just set up shop again. I suppose you could take their L$, but it's still much simpler to get money shuffling around among multiple "people" than in the physical world.

Virtual NSA, virtual FBI (4, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 6 years ago | (#21884342)

Already happening. From a Linden Labs press release: The company also introduced algorithms that identify suspicious activity...

A virtual world is a total surveillance society. Everything can be logged. More than that, what you do there can be analyzed automatically.

Big Brother is watching. Big Brother is always watching.

One really obvious way (3, Insightful)

Enlarged to Show Tex (911413) | more than 6 years ago | (#21883614)

I don't play games such as this, but it seems obvious to me that these sorts of scams are going to happen whenever there is a real dollar value associated with in-game currency. This sort of thing wouldn't happen if the makers of Second Life would remove the exchange rate between Linden dollars and USD; and even if it did happen, it wouldn't really be news.

One more point: How can the makers of this game do this without running afoul of the banking regulations of various nations, especially if you can buy/sell Linden dollars directly from the company itself?

Re:One really obvious way (4, Insightful)

nsanders (208050) | more than 6 years ago | (#21883708)

Removing the legal exchange won't prevent it. Look at Diablo 2 and the insane rates of SOJs on eBay in the beginning. No matter what, people will scam for money because even if its not worth real money, its still worth something to someone.

Re:One really obvious way (2, Interesting)

hansamurai (907719) | more than 6 years ago | (#21883792)

I'm not sure how much removing the exchange rate would help. For one, the exchange rate I believe is actually useful because people can purchase Linden dollars with real money, if you remove that, you've just created a black market for the exchange similar to World of Warcraft. WoW doesn't list an exchange rate, but for various economic reasons, it still has value. I can go to Ebay and pay X dollars for X amount of gold. The exchange rate isn't written in stone by Blizzard but it still exists. But maybe your point is if the rate wasn't backed by Linden then when people lose a lot of money they can't be blamed because it doesn't necessarily have real monetary value, but then Linden wouldn't be able to make money from selling Linden dollars.

Re:One really obvious way (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 6 years ago | (#21884128)

I don't play games such as this
This ought to be good...

but it seems obvious to me
...I can't wait!...

[that] this sort of thing wouldn't happen if the makers of Second Life would remove the exchange rate between Linden dollars and USD

Ah, of course. Because if the exchange rate wasn't controlled by the company, then nobody would want or be able to exchange in-game currency for legal tender, because nobody does that in WOW or EVE.

OK, you don't play the games, but do you know any actual humans?

Laws should not reward the stupid (-1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 6 years ago | (#21883630)

In all honesty. If you're too stupid to live, die. If you're too stupid to keep your money, lose it. Now, I can somewhat understand the need for scam protection laws in real life (because I'd probably have to pay for the suckers' wellfare), I don't see any reason to "protect" them in a game. You get scammed out of your virtual money? Sucks to be you. Toss your account, start over if you please, what do I care?

Do not protect the stupid. For pete's sake. People don't learn and don't improve if you pamper them constantly.

Re:Laws should not reward the stupid (3, Insightful)

Grygus (1143095) | more than 6 years ago | (#21883858)

I would argue that the entire point of civilization is to protect the weak and/or stupid. I would also argue that at various times and places, we have all been the stupid one at some point. Lastly, I would point out that in this case, the loss of virtual currency is an actual material loss, since you can convert game dollars to USD.

People will also not improve just because you think you're better than they are.

Re:Laws should not reward the stupid (1)

phoebusQ (539940) | more than 6 years ago | (#21883870)

Except in the case where virtual dollars have an actual exchange rate with 'real' dollars, they aren't so 'virtual' anymore.

Re:Laws should not reward the stupid (1)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 6 years ago | (#21883954)

How does that matter? People need to take responsibility for their own actions and choices. Gradparent was 100% correct.

Re:Laws should not reward the stupid (1)

techpawn (969834) | more than 6 years ago | (#21883946)

Thanks Darwin! After the strong completely control the weak we'll call you for more insight...

It's our place as the strong to protect the weak, even from themselves. If that means really obvious to us laws to keep the lemmings from running off the cliff than so be it. I dislike rule for protecting people who SHOULD know better, but, how else (aside from elimination from society) should this be handled. You can't cure stupid and they are going to be a drain on the society as a whole without some directions and protections.

Re:Laws should not reward the stupid (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 6 years ago | (#21884096)

Thanks Darwin! After the strong completely control the weak we'll call you for more insight...

That's not even Darwin, it's Neitzche .... if I can take it from you, tough. If you can't protect it tough. If you don't understand or like the rules of the game, tough.

It's way beyond social Darwinism. It's survival of the fittest with no rule of law to protect anyone at all -- it's in favour of all of the worst predatory aspects of human nature.

I don't want to live in that world. Civil society has been founded on trying to address some of those wrongs.

Cheers

Re:Laws should not reward the stupid (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 6 years ago | (#21884160)

The fact that anarchistic nations never last (much less rise to greatness) must be very confusing to you. Society runs on trust, it's as simple as that. If nobody is willing to enter into contracts because they can't be enforced, or exchange goods or services for currency because it might lose all value tomorrow, or even come within shooting distance of any other person, then there is only one possible outcome, which closely resembles Quake. Nobody wants to live in that world. Even as a video game, it's not terribly interesting. Virtual worlds won't go anywhere unless there is some semblance of law and order.

Re:Laws should not reward the stupid (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#21884192)

Hey stupid!

How do you define the difference between 'stupid', 'Ignorant', and 'mistaken'?

Here is a clue, with very few exceptions, 'stupid' always turns out to be ignorance, misinformation or inexperience.

Second life isn't a game , it's a virtual world with real money.

"I can somewhat understand the need for scam protection laws in real life (because I'd probably have to pay for the suckers' wellfare)"

what a dolt.
Ignoring the glaring misspelling(does that mean your stupid?) protection are in place because a few people lie and cheat. Would it be ok for a Credit Card company to jack your rate up to 500% and apply it to things you have already purchased? How about the CEO of your bank taking all the money and leaving?

In order to have a civilization of any sort, there needs to be a level of trust. And most people are trustworthy. However you need protections to help maintain the needed level of trust.

Your crack on "wellfare" was completly unneeded. I wonder if that was your point? Just to rant against welfare in the most stupid way.

Just act as an ISP (1)

Andabata (778566) | more than 6 years ago | (#21883634)

Linden Lab should simply respond like any ISP. That is, anyone claiming having been defrauded should go to relevant legal authorities and say so. And Linden Lab should simply present authorities (upon being intimated to do so) with the identification data of the avatar who was behind the activities.

That avatar will at least have an e-mail account, plus a log of recent IP numbers.
From those data, any legal authority can proceed to identify most users and act as they would normally.

Prevent stupidity? (1)

nsanders (208050) | more than 6 years ago | (#21883644)

How can Linden Labs set up a safety net to catch things like this?


As soon as they figure that one out, they can patent it and start selling the technology to Microsoft to use for their customers.

Usury (1)

jcaldwel (935913) | more than 6 years ago | (#21883660)

Unbelievably high interest rates coupled with some shady withdrawal limits leads to classic epic losses to investors. ... Second Life has a real monetary value.

Wouldn't usury laws [wikipedia.org] would cover cases like this, since the Second Life money has real monetary value?

Legality in Second Life (2, Interesting)

BigHungryJoe (737554) | more than 6 years ago | (#21883662)

Are Ponzi schemes in Second Life legal? Did the 'scammers' get to keep the money?

Re:Legality in Second Life (2, Insightful)

jandrese (485) | more than 6 years ago | (#21883778)

They're legal in the sense that SL has very few actual rules about player conduct and basically no enforcement of the few rules they do have. Unless you're crashing servers or spamming dicks it's pretty hard to get in trouble in SL, and even if you do it's just a temporary suspension. Even if your character were banned, the worst that would happen is you would lose whatever L$ you have not cashed out for real life bucks and would be forced to roll a new character.

Wait, wait, wait... (4, Insightful)

Serenissima (1210562) | more than 6 years ago | (#21883668)

So, any anonymous Joe Schmoe can open a Bank in Second Life? And people are surprised when they give money to a stranger and something like this happens? Well shit, maybe I should start playing the game and create my own bank! You know you can trust me because I'm playing the same game you are! That makes us almost like kin!

Re:Wait, wait, wait... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21883816)

You know you can trust me because I'm playing the same game you are! That makes us almost like kin!

Well, okay. If you insist...

Interesting Sandbox Experiment (1)

Sigismundo (192183) | more than 6 years ago | (#21883710)

I don't really see the point of Second Life, but I find it really interesting to see what goes on in there. It's like a chance to see what would happen if we didn't have the kind of regulations in place that we do now. An experiment in economics, if you will. It's telling that regulatory bodies are starting to form "in-world", like the SLEC (Second Life Exchange Commission). The article also mentions the formation of the VWBB (Virtual World Business Bureau), like the BBB in first life.

Again? (1)

jandrese (485) | more than 6 years ago | (#21883718)

Doesn't someone do this about once every six months in Second Life? I'm pretty sure if I troll through the archives I'll find plenty of references to people who set up "banks" in SL, and then promptly ran away with the L$ after a few months. Why people put their trust (and $!) in the hands of some random person they don't know on the internet is beyond me. As far as I know, not one of these SL "banks" has ever been legitimate. I guess P.T. Barnum was right.

Re:Again? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21884134)

A Ponzi scheme [wikipedia.org] is a little more complex than excepting deposits and running. By paying some people a profit, a Ponzi scheme builds enough confidence to rake in huge amounts of value before running.

ugh.. (5, Insightful)

Detaer (562863) | more than 6 years ago | (#21883722)

How does second life still drum up this much publicity? Its nothing but over hyped marketing and furries looking for some sort of acceptance. If you don't talk about it, second life will disappear.

Re:ugh.. (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 6 years ago | (#21884218)

That's a damn lie, and you know it. Second Life also has plenty of paedophiles.

RuneScape vs. Real-world Trading (2, Interesting)

jeti (105266) | more than 6 years ago | (#21883730)

There's an interesting article by the RuneScape development team on the problems scammers and real world traders cause for the game and about possible solutions that they are implementing:
http://www.runescape.com/kbase/view.ws?guid=diary06 [runescape.com]

Excerpts:
The majority of bots that we ban from members have been paid for with stolen credit card numbers.
Such accounts don't earn us money, they cost us money in bank refund charges.

During 2006, we banned bot and real-world trader accounts carrying RuneScape gold and items worth over 200 billion gp. During 2007, so far, we've banned over 525 billion, which has a real-world value of over $2.6 million US - that's an increase of over 250%.

Re:RuneScape vs. Real-world Trading (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21884078)

Runescape is NOT an example I would like to see repeated in other MMOs. They are draconian in ways that make the current copyright laws look tame. They have managed, somehow, to rationalize killing off the largest portion of their player base, in exchange for eliminating what most of us considered a minor nuisance (and at times a fun distraction... killings bots had become a pastime of many Runescapers).

Direct player-to-player trade was effectively removed from the game today, and as a result everyone I know has quit. One person even had their subscription renewed the day before the announcement was made, and requested they refund the money ASAP (which they did, after some persistant "we own you" type arguments). While it's true that one can still buy and sell freely, the AMOUNTS of said sales/purchases are determined by the game mechanics, and not by the need or desire of the purchaser. The game will not allow you to lend items to your friends, or spare some food or a potion when someone is in trouble. They have also effectively removed the death penalty, and removed the ability to pick up the items of stupid people who die near you.

I am very much aware of the potential scams that these issues have solved, but what they do not solve is the removal of the "fun" element of the game. I am not playing online games to grind out levels and collect shiny trinkets. I am there to play with my friends, and these changes have removed that ability for me. It's become a single player game, where you can see other people playing without interacting with them.

There are numerous other changes that Jagex has made, all well documented, as well as some further efforts by the company to eliminate what they perceive as a "threat" that in fact accomplish nothing but further alienating innocent paying customers. Learn from their example, but for Christ's sake, DON'T repeat their mistakes. This game will die... mark my words.

Re:RuneScape vs. Real-world Trading (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21884332)

One person even had their subscription renewed the day before the announcement was made, and requested they refund the money ASAP (which they did, after some persistant "we own you" type arguments).

I'd go to my credit card company and dispute the charge. Since the service changed so quickly after a purchase, I'm sure the company would side with the consumer, but it's important to dispute it as soon as possible. Of course, some people pay with other instruments (paypall, debit, etc) and get very little protection from fraud.

Re:RuneScape vs. Real-world Trading (1)

Andy_R (114137) | more than 6 years ago | (#21884292)

Sadly, the 'solution' that Jagex (the company that runs RuneScape) have put in place is to turn their MMPORG into the first MSPORG (massively single player online realtime game), by blocking players from making ANY kind of transaction that involves transferring value from one character to another, making they game a mockery of it's former self:

They removed player vs player combat ('the wilderness'), to stop traders deliberately losing fights to transfer wealth, ignoring the fact that a huge portion of their playerbase was only there for the PvP combat.

They removed the ability to offer players more than 5% above of below their (often wildy inaccurately) fixed prices when buying and selling items.

They removed the ability to give friends gifts worth more than an absurdly tiny amount.

They arbitrarily killed the fletching skill because the price of the most commonly fletched item is fixed at a point where nobody will buy them, ignoring hundreds (if not thousands) of posts on the official forums telling them that this price is wrong.

Unsurprisingly, the playerbase is either rioting, quitting (as I have), or spending a lot of time on the official 'rants' forum, where over 70,000 posts have already been 'removed so we can look through them more easily' - which is incidentally about as believable as the post you quoted above.

Oh, and the real world traders have simply switched to offering 'power levelling', where they grind your character for you, instead of selling you RuneScape gold, so the problem hasn't been cured at all. The cheating hasn't been stopped at all, it's just been moved to a method that doesn't involve stolen credit cards being used to buy accounts!

If it is too good to be true... (4, Insightful)

db32 (862117) | more than 6 years ago | (#21883772)

I have a real hard time feeling very sympathetic to most of these people being scammed. These types of scams typically rely on the victim allowing greed to shut down their brain. I am normally one to be pretty vicious towards the scammers in things like credit cards and predatory lending, because often enough it isn't exploiting greed and get rich quick schemes so much as it is a genuine fraud and manipulation. This subprime crap and scams like this are almost exclusively greed driven on the part of the victim. Listen to the radio and you will hear dozens of commercials per day on how to get rich quick in real estate, flipping houses, or whatever other genious plan being sold. I can't imagine why someone selling real estate would try to sell a system of how to get rich by buying real estate...

Re:If it is too good to be true... (1)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 6 years ago | (#21884466)

I've known two people to date who've been taken in by pyramid schemes. Naturally the schemers change their terminology around but you can not hide the underlying structure of the scheme -- new members give money to existing members who pass it up to the people who recruited them. Note that some valid MLMs exist -- Amway being an example where actual production takes place. However once you establish that in fact no production is going on then what you're left with is a pyramid scheme plain and simple.

Turns out if you tell someone that they're engaged in a pyramid scheme and are about to get fleeced they get angry at you and deny it categorically. Usually with something like "It's not a scheme because Steve said it wasn't!"

It's very difficult to have sympathy for the victim at that point, but these are desperate people who are usually trying to dig themselves out of a hole. Short cuts are enticing and the scammers capitalize on their dreams and usually destroy what little progress these people have made in the process. I might note that State Lotteries play upon the exact same get-rich-quick dreams of people whose grasp of the odds is so tenuous that they can hardly even imagine the possibility that the ticket they just spent their kid's lunch money on could lose.

What we need to do is to educate people on the scams that are out there. Middle or high schools really need to spend a semester on the various scams that people are going to encounter and how not to get suckered in. I'd include state lotteries and tactics that credit card and debt relief organizations use on the list of things to discuss, too. Until we start educating our children from a very early age that people usually going to be out to take advantage of them we are going to continue to see damage to our economies, both real and virtual.

I don't play SL (1)

Cro Magnon (467622) | more than 6 years ago | (#21883774)

But I've never understood why anyone would use REAL money in a FAKE world!

Re:I don't play SL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21884094)

Who was it that explained that "CyberSpace is where the Bank keeps your money".

SL's not that much more fake than Dollars made up by the Federal Reserve.

Re:I don't play SL (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 6 years ago | (#21884278)

People use real money to buy fake things all the time. Some men choose to buy a Camaro rather than a real penis extension, for example.

Who *wouldn't* use real money in SL? (1)

rickkas7 (983760) | more than 6 years ago | (#21884434)

On the contrary, I can't imagine who wouldn't use real money converted into Linden $ in SL. People will actually do "work" in SL to earn L$. Most people make between US$0.50 and US$1.00 per hour. Why would you do that? Just get a real job and convert a few bucks so you can buy a new slutty dress or furry suit in SL and be done with it already.

Parallels to real-world economies, anyone? (3, Interesting)

compumike (454538) | more than 6 years ago | (#21883802)

Ginko's exchange rates only made sense if inflation was high too. The economy was being manipulated and Linden Labs was "printing" more money [wikipedia.org] . But given Wikipedia's description of what happened, it appears exactly like what happened in the US not too long ago. The "government" changed a law about the legality of internet gambling, and this instantly caused the deaths of several companies. It's actually kind of interesting to watch how a virtual currency behaves and how to create an economic system even within a game like this.

--
Our microcontroller kit. Your gcc compiler. Learn digital electronics. [nerdkits.com]

something similar in World of Warcraft.... (1)

emeraldfoxx (1193353) | more than 6 years ago | (#21883838)

on the Garona server in WOW there is a certain player who seems to have a vast amount of money and resources to her advantage (anyone playing on the Garona server should probably know who i'm talking about by now). She is overloading the auction house with her products and making them all cost the max price (ex. 9999g 99s 99c). Where as this is not an "up-front" scam or anything, I believe this player is ruining the actual game for both new and old users. If she didn't "buy" the gold to do all this and honestly worked to gain all that money and goods then more power to em. I still do think that the overpricing of the auction house is a bit ridiculous but for the most part this player won't be a problem for awhile, until she starts buying out all auctions and replaces them with her insane price.

where as this is not a "lose money" type of scam (other than your monthly payments for service to the game), i do believe it belittles the impact the game has on its players. i guess thats what i get for playin any online game, theres always a couple people out there to ruin the actual game for everyone

buts thats just my .02

Re:something similar in World of Warcraft.... (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#21884052)

That is an issue that would be easy for Blizzard to fix. In fact, it wouldn't take much to bring an end to gold trading. I can't stress that enough. Blizzard makes a lot of money from gold farmers and the like.

How active is your trade window?

In order for what she is doing to work, she must be buying other peoples auctions, which means sellers are making money.
I mean if she is selling a stack of Linen Cloth for 99G and I put a stack of Linen Cloth up for 2 GP, someone is going to buy it. If not her then someone else. It is impossible to completely control the market unless everyone else doesn't sell any materials.

Now that I am really thinking about it, nothing of what you say makes any sense at all.I'm going to have to log onto that server and check it out.

"epic losses" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21883846)

Sorry, but why epic losses? I don't see how this scam is surpassing the usual or ordinary in anyway

Suggestion ... (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 6 years ago | (#21883854)

"How can Linden Labs set up a safety net to catch things like this?"

How about starting by getting a FIRST LIFE!

I have very little sympathy for people who have bad things happen to them when doing something stupid.

Can't Catch Them All (1)

mastershake_phd (1050150) | more than 6 years ago | (#21883918)

How can Linden Labs set up a safety net to catch things like this?
 
Well, they could hire more moderators. But even then some scammers are going to get through.
 
Even free to play MMORPGs that are relatively new are susceptible to this sort of thing. Just look at Fiesta Online: http://fiestafan.com/ [fiestafan.com]

It's not a problem, it's a feature (4, Insightful)

Idaho (12907) | more than 6 years ago | (#21883926)

We're all well aware of the scams that sometimes happen in online games like Eve Online. But despite this looking primarily like a problem with Eve Online [..]

(emphasis mine)

Uhmmmm, hello?

Eve Online is specifically designed to have a player-driven economy and market. As in real life, it is possible to scam people in such a market. This is not just allowed in Eve online, it has in fact been close to actively encouraged (as in, people have asked devs/GM's whether it's ok to do certain things, and got a reply that amounts to "if it's not obviously prohibited by the EULA, go right ahead". It has made for some nice stories as well, some people may remember the story about the Eve Intergalactic Bank [slashdot.org] piramid scam.

The devs consider this kind of thing to be exactly as intended and have even stated so in public forums. So yes, it's a harsh game. It is actually possible to lose the work of several months in a matter of minutes.

Of course, there are still rules/an EULA, for example it's not OK to phish for account details, to sell or buy in-game money for real-world money, etc. However, if you manage to convince hundreds of people that they should invest in your piramid scheme, you should absolutely go right ahead.

ObFuturama (1)

Eli Gottlieb (917758) | more than 6 years ago | (#21884124)

You've been scammed, sweetheart!

Stupid should hurt (2, Interesting)

sstamps (39313) | more than 6 years ago | (#21884216)

I'm an avid SL resident, and have been vocal about the Ginko subject in the SL community forums on numerous occasions.

Basically, as many have said there and elsewhere, when you participate in one of these "banks", you give your money to someone. That's how LL sees it. You are GIVING your money to someone. Whether they give it back or not, let alone pay you any extra for the privilege, is gratis, and they have no intention of doing anything about it if the owner of bank X up and disappears with the money. ANYone can set up ATM machines anywhere and do what Ginko did. Well, they can't any more, as people have already been burned and are wary, but there are still many naive people out there who will blithely go up to an ATM, see flowery words and fabulous interest rates, and deposit every L$ in their account, never suspecting that it isn't a "real" bank.

Yes, it is only "virtual money". Any real world value it holds is subject to change at any time. Most cases, it isn't a lot of money that is lost in these scams. It's an expensive lesson to learn, but it is far from life-breaking for anyone.

What is kind of telling is that LL does stop pyramid schemes and other such money scams, but does nothing to stop Ponzi schemes, like Ginko's (not-so-affectionately called the "Porto-Ponzi" in the SL forums). Ponzi schemes are a variation on pyramid schemes and, if one is regulated, the other should be as well. It is left as an exercise to the reader why LL can't seem to fathom this concept and put an end to SL "banks".

In the end, though, it is and should remain caveat emptor. In some ways, I think it is a good training ground for RL. The money involved is often nothing more than discretionary income for most folks, so losing it shouldn't hurt any more than losing it in a poker game. There's more than enough wisdom out there for people to obtain and investigate before giving their money to anyone. Whether they choose to ignore it falls squarely on their shoulders and no one else's.

Sigh.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21884240)

And idiot's continue to wreak havoc with the English language.

proper punishment (1)

slashdotmsiriv (922939) | more than 6 years ago | (#21884276)

The only proper punishment, is to put the scammers' avatars in virtual second life jails and confiscate their second life properties.

Second Life banks are not FDIC (1)

mkraft (200694) | more than 6 years ago | (#21884484)

So if you lose your money there, whether through a bug or through fraud, you're screwed. Also since the "country of second life" is not part any one country or the U.N., there are no federal or international laws applicable in the word of second life. This is the problem with virtual property.

Technically money is virtual as well since the little pieces of paper you carry around are technically worthless, but at least paper money is backed by the Government which has rules protecting you from theft. That's why First Life [getafirstlife.com] is better than Second Life [secondlife.com] .
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