Just like anything else online, MMORPGs have their share of scams, hackings, and security risks. This is just part of online life. Whenever there is sensitive information involved and sensitive data being sent through the internet, there will always be an opportunity for scams and hacks. MMORPGs are not protected from this sad reality. Even though they form their own little fantasy worlds, the problems of the real world still manage to creep in. This guide steps you through the most common scams and security risks that you will face as a user of MMORPGs.
Carefully consider the advice this guide gives you to avoid joining the ranks of many scam victims that hacking groups and scammers claim daily. The true numbers of victims cannot certainly be known because for every victim that speaks up and actually reports a hacking or a scam incident, there are many others that choose to remain silent. Do not join the ranks of victims, read this guide carefully and be armed with the information that you need to avoid sticky situations.
Phishing scams are not just restricted to scams involving online banks, e-mail accounts and other types of websites that contain sensitive personal or financial information. Phishing scams have also crept their way into the world of MMORPGs. The most common phishing scam is an E-mail announcing some sort of beta invitation. For example, when World of Warcraft’s Cataclysm expansion game was about to enter beta test phase, there were many scam crews sending out phishing spam emails all over the internet. You know that these emails were suspicious because people who did not even play World of Warcraft would get these emails. The same goes for any hot new MMORPG, whether it is a beta for expansion or an “exclusive invite” for a new game that is about to go online. Regardless, the methodology is still the same. You get a spam E-mail that has some sort of invitation, hyping you up trying to get you to click the link. When you click the link, your computer automatically downloads and installs a software that an attacker can use remotely to access your computer.
MMORPG Phishing schemes revealed
Additionally, many phishing scams also involve sending you to a page that looks just like battle.net, which is one of World of Warcraft’s front-end. When you enter your user information, the fake website captures that information and somebody else logs in to your account and steals your game gold, your gear, and anything of value to your character. The first threat that we mentioned earlier which is suspicious emails with links to attack sites plays a crucial role in phishing attacks. These types of attacks are quite important to a phishing campaign because it ensures that the number of victims keep increasing. As more and more computers get infected, they send out more phishing spam. If you notice that your computer is starting to slow down or your router’s indicator light is starting to blink even though you are not doing anything on your computer, make sure your anti-virus or anti-malware software is up to date. This is because there is a high likelihood that your system got infected.
Don’t get assimilated into the Botnet
Attackers need to constantly infect more computers each and everyday because their network of zombie computers begin to decline when people clean up their computers, not everybody turn on their computers on a daily basis or other do not leave the computer on all the time. There is only a percentage of infected computers that they can use. That is why they are very aggressive in sending out spam emails to facilitate phishing campaigns later on. At the end of the day, it all leads to money because once a successful phishing attempt is made and the actual account log in and password are stolen, it does not take much effort for the phishing spammers to clean out accounts and sell a game gold online. This is big money. Online burglaries of MMORPG accounts is big business because the gold that is stolen can easily be laundered through online gold exchanges and converted to real cash. Be very careful of any invitations you get.
How to Protect Yourself from Phishing Expeditions
There are certain things you can do when reading E-mail to ensure that this is not a phishing scam E-mail. You can hover your cursor over the link. Take a look at the link that appears on your browser. Make sure that it is the official site. Also take a look at the extension. Sometimes scammers would register a misspelling of an MMORPG’s front-end website in that you would think it is the actual official website. Pay attention to the extension of the domain name, the spelling. If it is not the name of the site or it is not battle.net, avoid it completely and report the E-mail as spam. That way, if you are using Gmail or other sophisticated web mail providers, that E-mail would get tagged and hopefully other people would be spared from having to read that phishing E-mail. Be part of the solution by reporting a phishing attempt promptly.
Other MMORPG Scams
These are not as prevalent as phishing scams, but these cause enough individual pain for them to be listed in this guide. Once again in terms of scale, your number one concern should be phishing scams because they attack thousands of users daily. On an aggregated basis, they hit millions of people. Phishing attacks should definitely be your top security priority. Still, you need to be mindful of possible scams that are perpetrated in MMORPG worlds so you do not become a victim. While some of these can be remedied by the online staff of the MMORPG, considering how fast things move online, whatever solutions the game administrators might come up with may be too little too late.
Scam 1. Duping
MMORPG software is really a very complicated piece of software. It has hundreds of thousands of lines of code. It has evolved through many years of different versions and evolution and considering how complicated it is, certain things are bound to break when things are added or things are subtracted or new features are launched. Whatever the change is through the game, do not be surprised when certain things break. Sometimes these glitches often take the form of duping. Duping is when game items can be duplicated through a game glitch. Maybe there are certain game segments or processing segments within the game or when a character dies or logs off at a certain time, game items can be duplicated. The problem occurs when certain shady players approach other players who have heard of the duping glitch and promising to duplicate their items. These items can take the form of special equipment or it can take the form of gold.
Victims of trust or greed
While on its face, duping scams are easy to smell a mile away since successful duping schemes are few and far between, there are enough naïve people that fall for this, especially newbies. The fact of the matter is it does not absolutely pay to participate in a duping scheme because chances are it is a scam. When you turnover your gold or you turnover your unequipped equipment or items, the other guy just takes off with it and either sells it off, converts it into gold and disappears. It could be using a stolen account or a fake account. Either way, you are out of luck. In some instances, game moderators can track down and reverse some trades for you, but you should not hold your breath on that happening. Also more importantly, duping schemes for the most part fail because the life of duplication glitch tends to be very short.
Thankfully, dupe glitches don’t last too long
Duplication glitches are really kisses of death for an MMORPG system. Why? If things are easy to duplicate, people do not need to pay for special game items or they dramatically cheapen the value of the MMORPG. Either way, it is bad news for the company that owns the MMORPG. Accordingly, duplication glitches are very short lived because the support teams, the technical department and programmers are constantly on the lookout for such glitches and quickly patch them up. Be very suspicious when somebody claims that they have found a way to duplicate items. Do not participate in that because it is unethical and it is cutting corners. You should just be out there enjoying the game, but if you do decide to investigate the matter, be very careful because the chances of it being a scam are quite high.
Scam 2. Bad Trades
For the most part, people who play MMORPGs for some period of time know what kind of trades that they go into. If you have been playing a game for some time, you would know how much things cost or what materials are used for or the recipes for particular crafting items. Unfortunately, that trade still exists because there is always an imbalance of information and knowledge between people. You really cannot run after somebody if you go into a trade with that person and you ended up with a bad deal. That is just the way the cookie crumbles sometimes. If you did not do your research and you end up at the short end of the stick, you have nobody to blame but yourself.
How to protect yourself from “rip offs”
To prevent feeling ripped off by bad trades, always be aware of the prices of the items that you are trading. You may have some recourse if the person misrepresented to you what you are trading. In essence, they lied to you. However, items are often clearly labeled in World of Warcraft and other games. Most of the time, MMORPGs do not allow for custom labeling. Even if somebody said to you that they had 100 gold pieces that they want to trade for 10 silver pieces and it is actually 100 copper pieces, when you go into the trade exchange window, you would see what the real identity of the item. There is really little opportunity for the other peson to hide the true nature of the item from you. If anything, he would just be wasting his time trying to dupe people in such a labor-intensive way. Again, unless it is an absolutely crafty lie and a reasonable person or even the game moderate could be tricked because they did not look hard enough, a bad trade situation usually will go against you. There is really not much you can do. Pay careful attention when you are trading with somebody. Know the price of things and read the item labels very carefully and look at the item features closely.
Scam 3. Password theft
We have already covered phishing scams that send official-looking E-mail which turn out to be false front-ends for websites that steal your log in information. There is another form of password theft. This takes the form of fake game moderators. They would say that they are representatives of the MMORPG. This is hard to do with World of Warcraft, almost impossible. However, other MMORPG’s communication systems are structured differently and there might be glitches that might be exploited. Either way, if you receive like an in-game communication from a person claiming to be official staff, always contact the game moderator and double check. Here is a hint and it should a fairly obvious one–game moderators will never ever ask you for your password. Be very suspicious of people who ask you for sensitive log in information by pretending to be a customer or technical support personnel, chances are they are bogus. Report them immediately.
Scam 4. Online Panhandling
If you play MMORPGs intensively, you would notice that whenever you enter a main square or a main city of a game, there are usually some people hanging out near the entrance begging people for extra gold. This can be an annoyance and it is really irritating at times and there is certainly nothing you can do about it. They are just betting for gold. If you end up being convinced that they lost all their gold or they just made some bad moves and they do not have much gold and they are down on their luck, you are more than free to give them some of your gold. Keep in mind, however, that a percentage of these beggars are actually not broke. This is actually what they do. They stand in common areas begging for gold all day. If that irritates you and you would feel scammed if you find out that this person actually does not need to be begging, then you must make sure that you do not give gold to beggars. In MMORPGs, it is almost impossible to verify a person’s sob story. What may seem convincing to one person may turn out to be a complete lie. Be very cautious if you do not want to feel that you were taken advantage of by well-crafted sob story.
Scam 5. Pay and Run Scams
In World of Warcraft and Star Wars the Old Republic, there are some areas that you would want to explore, but you feel that you do not have a high enough level to safely navigate these areas. Therefore, you hire the services of a more experienced player with more powerful equipment and a very high level. This is a great way to gain equipment, game gold and also game materials. This is an excellent way to pay old to somebody so that they can protect you and you can fully navigate a site. This is especially helpful if you are going through dungeons or instances. The problem is if you pay that person the gold that they are asking for and then they disappear. There is really nothing you can do about it. Many game moderators refuse to intervene. If you get scammed by pay and run type of scams, you are out of luck.
How to protect yourself
Still you have to trust people to fulfill their end of the bargain. To protect yourself in these situations, agree to pay half or a quarter upfront and when you are done exploring, then you can pay the rest of the money. In this type of situation, the guide may decide to just leave you and refuse your offer because if you say that you are going to pay only half upfront, both of you will be splitting the risk. You run the risk of him skipping out on you after he receives your money and he runs the risk of you taking off after he has guided you to whatever place you need help with. By paying half or partial payment upfront, you are effectively splitting the risk. This is a good solution because if you need to be guided, you need that service more than the other person. You consider yourself lucky if somebody accepts your half now, half later offer because they have more to lose and you have more to gain because you are gaining from their high level of protection. Make sure you structure your deals this way to reduce your risk. In addition to navigating, there are other situations where you need to pay. Keep this in arrangement in mind so you do not get ripped off.
The Bottom Line
Scams are as prevalent in the fantastic magical realm of MMORPGs as in other places on the internet. There is really no escape from people looking to make a quick buck. Just because they are scammers at MMORPGs, that does not necessarily mean that you automatically take the risk and become a victim. Read the considerations and tips above very closely and keep these in mind. If the decisions you make in the MMORPG game world are based on common sense and keep the considerations above in mind, your chances of becoming a victim become much lower than if you disregard these tips and just act on impulse. Protect yourself because nobody else will.