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Why are impersonator Scammers so successful?


Woifi The Viking

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More of a rethorical question but it is something that honestly surprised me a bit at first.

 

Everyday I see multiple occasions related to impersonator scams. The victims are mostly new and inexperienced traders, that includes people who unboxed their unusuals but also those who traded a bit on their own. The story is always very similiar, high profile trader impersonator (in most cases already marked on SR) adds the user and convinces them to sell for cash in some way, via a fake opskins bot or simply by linking the rep of the real trader. Or the scammer suggestes a fake impersonator middleman for the cash trade, or to "verify item history".

The sad part is that the victims often times have been warned before. You see multiple comments on unboxers profile page like "beware of impersonators, always check their steamrep", sometimes they even get a longer explanation by trades who add them. In the end? Still getting scammed.

And then I see reports/-trusts on the real traders profile "he scammed me" or "he works with his impersonator".

And the unusuals usually find their way back into the ecenomy.

 

At this point I'm wondering if their is even something effective that can be done to prevent some of these cases from happening.

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Having worked retail for over a decade, I can easily answer that:

 

People are idiots.

 

And no matter how much you try to idiot-proof something, the universe will simply provide a better idiot.

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Atleast moderators do great job resolving those fake "reports" fast.

It is hard to understand people that spend 10-15 minutes writing report instead of spending 10 seconds checking real steam ID...

 

Valve should enable showing of steamID URL-s by default in Steam UI.

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Friend of mine was scammed in a similar way on Christmas Day. Guy had been a trader for a long time but had stopped after the "Casual update" so he quit the game. After a few months he decided to cash out.

 

Somebody added him and offered full price in paypal for his stuff. I immediately told him it was fishy and that nobody would pay full price for a bp that is being cashed out.

The guy had a load of people asking about him being a middle man in his steam profile but it was all too fishy I told him not to do it. Did it anyway.

Reported the guy and the alt that the items moved to. Obvious alt. Friend then tried to -rep Versl for trading with the scammers alt. Unsure if Versl was aware of the guy being a scammer but without the mark on steam rep prior to trading, the evidence isnt really there. 

 

Anyways, it just goes to show that anybody can fall for it. Just takes you having an off day to fall for something so obvious even when others tell you not to do it.

 

And here is the guy who scammed the items (market now and banned obviously but still getting requests to be a "middleman" on his profile)

http://steamcommunity.com/id/SnowBallMM/

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MAYBE if steamrep partnered with valve so that when you add someone/receive a trade offer from them/ etc. you are provided with obvious warnings.  but that's not gonna happen and odds are some people would still be stupid enough to fall for it so

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At this point I'm wondering if their is even something effective that can be done to prevent some of these cases from happening.

Euthanization 

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Besides the few people who are caught offguard, i can only surmise that the majority of people who get scammed in these situations are kids who never experienced consequences before, so they don't bother prepping themselves in advance when they do trades, regardless if they are risky or not, or people who just don't care that much if they lose their items, and move on if they get scammed.

 

Some time ago i was really bothered that so many people get scammed and i just thought that steam maybe should integrate obvious warnings to people everywhere who trade.

 

I came to realize that in terms of being scammed, some people just can't be helped no matter how you try. They will adapt to the method that they got scammed with, only to fall to a different method some time later. There are people who just lack general awareness in terms of trading and some who don't care that much to be bothered to check one site that shows if someone is marked or not, so they just leave the -rep without bothering to check if its the impersonator or the original guy, and they move on.

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 i can only surmise that the majority of people who get scammed in these situations are kids who never experienced consequences before, so they don't bother prepping themselves in advance when they do trades, regardless if they are risky or not,

 

To add to that, most people tend to feel they have an aura of invincibility, believing that nothing bad like that will actually happen to them, up to the point where it actually happens to them. It's a harsh life lesson, yes, but it's far better for that lesson to be learned with the consequence being the loss of a few virtual hats than it would be with a person's house being foreclosed on.

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People get starstruck, I presume. To excited to check if its the real deal. Apparently the way a lot of people get fooled is 'Strife' adds them and asks for an item from their inventory for a video.

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People are idiots as Scott said. More than 50 kids added me and asked to give their stuff back because someone with same name i have scammed them 

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Well right a lot people don't even check profile steam i see so often people asking my bp tf profile link or my trade offer link in steam chat but both are on my profile,

 

i have a friends got scammed like that the worst he got scammed by a guy trade banned by valve not steamrep on his profile it was say in red TRADE BANNDED and they trust him to give items to fake trusted alt account to check if is it duped, don't even check on his profile are in big in red he is trade banned

 

the main problem is a lot people accept trade without do background check at all not even check they backpack or steam profile

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Sometimes its desperation. Had it happen to me around Xmas a few years ago, funds were short, needed some extra money, was in a hurry, didn't do my due diligence. Was royally pissed. But ultimately it was my fault. Still mad at myself . . . . .

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I get 5-10 friend requests per day from people who have been scammed by my impersonators alone. There's not really much to be done other than having active middlemen available for the few victims who are savvy enough to find us. I don't think there are any further preventative measures to be taken, the only thing that can stop scams now is steam. Steamrep simply cannot be present for new traders immediately, and learning how to avoid scams on steam is a steep learning curve for someone never involved in a virtual economy before.

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What's even worse than stupidity of people is how OBVIOUS these scam techniques and methods are. Why would anyone ever consider the fact that there's a valve employee checking for "bugged and glitched" items. They cannot make a proper update, let alone being a full-time " Middleman history checker ". NONSENSE.  

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Seeing a lot of comments here about stupidity of victims, I'd like to add another perspective.

 

A better word would perhaps be naive. The people organizing these scams sometimes seem stupid, but that's partly an act and partly language barrier. They are very professional cybercriminals who unfortunately realized there is profit to be made in CS:GO. I've seen indication they are running full-blown call centers, just like those used for IRS impersonation phone scams in the US. They have well-rehearsed and honed social engineering scripts to cover nearly any situation that unfolds in order to trick victims. They tend to have anywhere from hundreds to thousands of alts lined up to rapidly cycle in if any accounts get trade banned. And just to give you an idea of how dedicated they are, in a couple cases, I found some of them were conclusive alts of the (provably not hijacked) accounts previously who used to spam phishing links and move hijacked items.

 

Now, why does this continue to be successful? If you're one of those unfortunate people getting impersonated, you may notice almost all the scam victims are CS:GO traders. Unlike TF2, CS:GO is still growing. Even today, it has a steady stream of newcomers, most of whom have never even used Steam, much less traded. These are people who generally don't even know what "Valve" is, and to them "Steam" is no different from "Microsoft .NET Redistributable", or "that thing I have to launch in order to play CS:GO". The people falling for these scams, at least those who end up adding me (and I'll bet Angelmander's experience is similar), are typically very young, many aged from 8 to 12 years old. A professional cyber criminal, who hosts "bullet proof" Russian phishing websites for a living, up against a 10-year-old, is simply not fair. Kids this age are prone to being scammed by professional conmen for the same reason they're prone to gambling addictions. You can argue whether someone is naive or stupid the first time(s) they got scammed in general, but with children so young, this isn't a matter of stupid we're dealing with; they never had a chance.

 

To make matters worse, many influential people within the CS:GO community, including community admins, do not have the same feelings about scamming as those in TF2. Some within the CS:GO community have told SteamRep to take a hike, refusing to tolerate any discussion or PSA's that might prevent someone from getting scammed. For example, telling people something like "there is no such thing as item verification" on r/globaloffensive will get a SteamRep admin banned, and we have been formally warned never to do that. Other site owners openly launder stolen items from scammers and split the profits - I'm not talking about "he traded with a scammer" but open and blatant partnership where they knowingly split profit from stolen goods. Others tend to not care or dislike us enough to refuse to mention or link any of our guides, but then wonder why so many of their users complain about getting scammed. So raising awareness about safe trading is a constant uphill battle.

 

We do have some plans in the works at SteamRep to try and raise awareness about these types of scams with the community at large, but they aren't public quite yet. I'm fairly optimistic about what we have in store though...

 

Now maybe you still think anyone falling for this is stupid and deserves to get scammed. I disagree. Just to give you an idea of how sophisticated and dedicated they are: Let's suppose you're new and encounter one of these guys. Like most kids in CS:GO you've never heard of this "Steam Rep". After bumping your overpriced trade on Lounge, you finally get a friend request from someone willing to buy your knife. He "introduces" you to SteamRep, explaining he's part of Steam Support, and instructs you to hand your items to the admin for "verification". He links you to an "Official" Steam guide explaining the process with demonstration videos, detailed pictures, and listing the dangers of "glitched" items. You think this seems fishy, so you decline. If you gave in, like many kids do at this point, he'll sometimes ask for your account info, Facebook/email account, SSN, or whatever else he can get, in order to "bypass the trade escrow". The scammer proceeds to threaten you with a VAC ban, link someone else he "just banned today", and give you some bogus "certificate" to prove he's legit and serious, saying if you refuse to cooperate you're next. Since most of you are beyond that point and will see through this, I'll assume you're detail oriented enough to recognize the middleman is fake (there is very specific timing and scripting they use to catch experienced traders off guard, I won't explain how), so you decide to troll the scammer. He plays dumb, but knows you're messing with him, so he offers to instead have you send the item to a "trusted friend" with one of several common excuses. Well, you weren't born yesterday, so you know he's going to impersonate your friend so you make extra sure you're trading with the real friend and waste his time. Well that "trusted" friend isn't as experienced as you, and he's counting on that, so while you were trading he copied your own profile to impersonate you to the friend. Maybe you were smart enough not to fall for that one, perhaps by actually sending it to your alt or speaking with your friend over a voice chat, so he offers to simply buy your item through an official trading website, which he links you to. That trading website looks really well-done, with apparently real people chatting on it, a huge inventory to select from, and overall a very flashy theme that looks like someone poured their soul into making. It ends up being one of many throwaway scam sites he created (we've reported hundreds of these to Steam Support) with scripts generating random human-like chat and purchases to look legit, and once you trade the bot (his alt) for credits he blocks you. Maybe you've seen that, and you only trust websites you've heard of and used yourself, so he tells you if you don't trust his site he'll buy it through Opskins or Lootmarket. But he's still worried about that "unclean" property in your item, so he names a Chrome/Firefox plugin that will check it for you. So you go to the Chrome store, search the name of this plugin, and click "Add to Chrome". He then directs you to your inventory, where some things flash, then tell you the item is "safe". You send him a screenshot, and he's happy. Now it's time to sell on Opskins; you follow all their instructions for a safe trade, including security words to confirm the bot you're trading with, he buys your knife, and you see pending credits on their site. He thanks you for doing business and removes you. Proud you managed to get a decent deal after all that time wasted with someone clearly trying to scam you, you proceed to withdraw money from the trading site or spend it on a different item, only to get an error. You contact their support, and when they finally get to you, they explain your computer is infected with malware like many, many of their other customers. That "offical" plugin you installed, with just 1 click, which doesn't require any admin rights on the computer, and rarely if ever gets detected by anti-malware programs, elaborately re-wrote parts of the trading website in real time, while the "bot" you confirmed and traded with was actually the scammer's alt, impersonating an Opskins bot, in a fake Steam group, and the plugin intercepting all of the security instructions from the trading website. Ok, maybe you managed to avoid all of these scams too. Now, frustrated with the time you wasted, the scammer decides he is going to threaten you with a brigade of fake reports on SteamRep using the account they're impersonating you with to ruin your reputation. You can make this all go away if you give the scammer everything in your inventory right now, or else he's just going to keep harassing you. Now fortunately we've gotten very good at recognizing fake reports at SteamRep, and that's actually one thing we were ahead of scammers by a couple years on. There's even a formal procedure for dealing with them, but hopefully by now you can understand why a young kid who's new to CS:GO will eventually lose their skins to the scammer. The scam methods go on and on and on, and yes these same scams I named are usually done by the same people. I've had to watch this same string of events unfold with victims over and over, while the victim predictably asks some question about these different types of scams, and I don't even get impersonated as often as middlemen.

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I think this is a perfect time as any to share this story.

 

I'm a new trader. Very fresh faced, and terrible at trading in general but is looking to improve, and I got scammed this way literally yesterday. Two weeks ago I unboxed a valuable Pyro Unusual, and a week later I traded that for a Starstorm Insomnia Hong Kong Cone, a Tesla Coil Hottie's Hoodie and 10 keys. Because I didn't want the Hoodie, I decided to try and get it traded for around 40 keys so I could buy myself some Taunts, Stranges, and then use the remaining keys to start Unusual Trading proper. I received a friend request from the scammer yesterday and I accepted it. He told me that he wanted to check to see if my items were legit and clean. I told him that they were and that he could check BP.tf, but he kept insisting that we bring in a Steam Rep admin to check for us because there might be something else wrong with it that BP.tf doesn't show. I obliged, and he linked me three accounts, probably all impersonators... And I ignorantly requested all of them...

 

I should clarify before I continue that while this was monumentally stupid of me and I will accept all name calling and insults, I had assumed that this is how high value trades worked. I assumed that trusted middlemen had to be brought in in order to thoroughly check items and watch over the trade to make sure nothing phishy happens. I just so happened to catch the phish, and it was a Great White Shark... (God I cringe at my stupidity and my jokes sometimes...)

 

Anyway, the impersonator that accepted first was this gentleman: http://steamcommunity.com/id/AngelManderss

 

He talked about how he is very busy and receives requests often, and that we make it quick. (Probably getting me flustered and in a hurry so I slip up easier) I invited the scammer to the trade with the impersonator. We talked for a while and made the chat environment formal, putting me on edge because this seemed way out of my league (Again, making me uncomfortable, making it easier for me to slip up). The impersonator requested that I send him the Hottie's Hoodie in order to check its validity, and requested the scammer send his 32 keys (I decided to go lower to up my chances of getting it sold... That turned out well...). It didn't even cross my mind at this time that something was going on, I just sent him the Unusual without a second thought.

 

The impersonator then requested in order to check validity, he ask for two of my items, being my Hong Kong Cone and my Australium Wrench... And guess what... With some scepticism in mind... I sent him the damn items... Do not ask me why I did this because I honestly do not know what happened in my head. I just keeled over and sent the items. These scammers get into your head. They make you uncomfortable. They make you flustered, all in an attempt to throw you off guard in order for you to make mistakes. I want to blame my anxiety in part for being a nervous easily moulded and scammed wreck, but I can't. All I can blame is my own stupidity and ignorance. Again, I deserve being called an idiot...

 

Once the items were sent, the Impersonator said "Press CTRL+W to compare items" which is when I realised that I messed up so hard... I ended up closing out the chat window because I knew that is what CTRL+W did, and then sitting there in my chair wondering what I had just done... I had lost 160 keys worth of items in the space of 15 minutes... But I will be honest with you, I did learn from this experience. I learned about this method of scamming, and I learned to NEVER trust middlemen. And I'll be honest, this experience also gave me drive to start Unusual trading proper, and make the money I lost back. It might take years, but I am determined to do it. So today I've been spending my time looking for Quicksells within my buying range. No luck yet, but hopefully soon, ay?

 

In addition, I have the ID of the items scammed from me. They're in a private inventory, but I have them in mind in case they go public again.

 

HKC: http://backpack.tf/item/5244250598

Hoodie: http://backpack.tf/item/5219489952

Aussie Wrench: http://backpack.tf/item/5095910395

 

I am glad I shared this story to the community, but I know I'll get called so many names... So let's go!

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I get 5-10 friend requests per day from people who have been scammed by my impersonators alone. There's not really much to be done other than having active middlemen available for the few victims who are savvy enough to find us. I don't think there are any further preventative measures to be taken, the only thing that can stop scams now is steam. Steamrep simply cannot be present for new traders immediately, and learning how to avoid scams on steam is a steep learning curve for someone never involved in a virtual economy before.

Belbaser was scam by one of your impersonator and he lost 2500 usd ( burning flam no name and purple energie boa )

 

https://backpack.tf/item/5440775934

 

https://backpack.tf/item/5407298785

 

But the trade history say lila , someone can help this guy ?

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jk. People just need to be better informed and be less of blockheads towards trading.

No need for the jk, you're absolutely right.  ;)

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Belbaser was scam by one of your impersonator and he lost 2500 usd ( burning flam no name and purple energie boa )

 

https://backpack.tf/item/5440775934

 

https://backpack.tf/item/5407298785

 

But the trade history say lila , someone can help this guy ?

you know that there is a thing like private backpacks, so the scammer doesnt show up in the history, and the guy who bought from the scammers doesnt show up either: https://backpack.tf/u/76561198129106718 (and its fine to trade that guy)

not sure what do you want any of us to do, confiscate the unusuals to give it back to the unboxer?

 

EDIT: We changed our policy regarding to trade with the User I linked above, he is now treated like a scammer, so trading with him is not allowed.

Edited by Woifilicious
Change in Policy
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