This old story only contains a part of the story and is written for educational and entertainment reasons only. It is important to note that scamming scammers, for example by offering them money for their stolen hats and then not paying it, is frowned upon by the trading community and NOT ACCEPTABLE.
Do NOT be a vigilante. Convincing a scammer to return his items is acceptable, as I have done in this case, but do not pull scams on scammers. I borderlined on breaking the Steamrep rules by accepting his hat.
Allowing vigilante stunts opens a whole new can of worms of people doing bad things with good intentions.
This is quite a long story and I created this blog just to tell it. Rest assured it is epic and you will not regret reading this wall of text. You will learn about the dark side of TF2 trading, how to protect yourself against it and finally, how to scam a scammer!
Some background information about TF2 tradingThe game Team Fortress 2 has a virtual item economy. It allows trading of such items via a safe Steam Trading mechanism. Traders like myself use this system to get items they prefer in exchange of items they like less or that are worth less.
The most sought after items are Unusual Hats which offer special particle effects like flames over your head.
Since they can only be unboxed with a chance of 1% using keys that cost $2.50 each, they can be quite valuable.
This leads to the deside to sell or buy these hats for real world money. The catch is that Steam Trading does not allow for monetary transactions so that such a trade is insecure by nature. Either the buyer or the seller has to "go first" by giving out the money or the item without knowing if the seller / buyer will keep their side of the bargain. This risk is somewhat reducable by using an independent, trusted "middleman". The seller gives his item to the middleman, the buyer can verify it is there and transfers the money. After receipt, the seller confirms payment receipt to the middleman who gives the item to the buyer. Aside from possible Paypal chargebacks, this process is relatively safe (using other payment methods).
I will explain how people exploit this process and try to scam others in the process.
Approached by a scammerAfter years of trading, I have many valuable items and unusual hats in my backpack. So there I was on an unsual hat trade server, checking out other nice hats people are showing off and trying to sell. Suddenly I get a trade request from a guy on the server, let's call him Skychief. Skychief's first question is "Can I buy the Unusual you are wearing for $120?". This is very odd for two reasons.
- He did not even ask me how much I am selling it for
- The value of the unusual in question was much lower
Anyways, I decided to play along because I was curious what he was going to try on me and of course he might still just be a moron looking to spend $120 on a virtual item he loves.
So I ask him some basic questions, like do you know how this works ("No, first time") and if he is familiar with the middleman method. Conveniently, he already has a middleman available. This was another red flag, either people have traded unusuals before, then they know and select a middleman, or they haven't and they will take a long time understanding the concept, even longer to find a middleman.
So he sends me this Steam profile link to his middleman:
Following the sourceop link we find the profile of the real (albeit not widely known) middleman:
A couple more red flags: the name history on the fake profile shows many other names, especially of other middlemen. Also real middlemen are usually old school TF2 players and therefore have old steam accounts as well as. And short playtime as our fake profile has, is a good indicator of a fake (usually it is even less).
So anyways, I again decide to play along at first and tell Skychief that I will add the middleman. Suddenly Skychief seems to get cold feet and tells me that the middleman might be untrustworthy. This very confusing and rare, I assume he googled my nickname and found some of my sourceop scammer reports. Worried that he might find another target, I add a guy who was on the server with us and is also on Skychiefs friendslist, his name is Mr.Shnipz. I ask him if he was approached by Skychief and tell him to watch out since Skychief seems to be a scammer. Now it gets weird. He gets all defensive, says that Skychief seems to be an innocent and nice guy. When I tell him that I will monitor Skychief for a while, he says its probably not necessary and that he will keep an eye on him for me. Very fishy and I go to bed with the lingering feeling that they are connected. But I keep both Skychief and Mr. Shnipz on my friendslist in order to keep an eye on their activities in the next days.
Day two - JusticeThe next day Mr.Shnipz starts chatting with me again and tells me that he needs my help to trade his two unusuals 2:1 for a certain hat (unusual steaming anger) held by another guy that is worth way less than his two. I check out his backpack and sure enough he has two unusuals that I didn't notice the day before:
http://www.tf2items.com/item/786758567 (Orb fire Jeepcap)
http://www.tf2items.com/item/779968197 (Stormy Marauder)
I decide to talk to the previous owner or the Jeepcap, Hunter:
Never tell your password to anyone.If you prefer to read the rest of the story as a chat transcript, I have uploaded it here: http://pastebin.com/JJRQQY4J
Dienstag, 10. April 2012
21:22 - ZakMcRofl: hey there21:22 - ZakMcRofl: quick question21:22 - Hunter: yes?21:22 - ZakMcRofl: you used to have an unusual jumper cap21:22 - Hunter: YES
21:22 - ZakMcRofl: what happened to it21:22 - Hunter: oh my god
21:22 - Hunter: it got scammed
21:22 - Hunter: do you have it???
21:22 - ZakMcRofl: i thought so21:22 - ZakMcRofl: no21:23 - Hunter: aww :(
21:23 - ZakMcRofl: i am talking to the guy who has it21:23 - Hunter: DOOD
21:23 - ZakMcRofl: mr shnipz21:23 - Hunter: omg please
21:23 - ZakMcRofl: i believe he is a scammer21:23 - Hunter: i would do anything
21:23 - Hunter: if u could get it back
21:24 - ZakMcRofl: let me try21:24 - Hunter: ok
21:24 - ZakMcRofl: i can give you the profile link21:24 - ZakMcRofl: but do not add him21:24 - ZakMcRofl: now21:24 - ZakMcRofl: it will scare him off21:24 - Hunter: ok thanks\ u soooo much, i wont
21:24 - Hunter: i was lookin so hard
21:24 - ZakMcRofl: http://steamcommunity.com/profiles/76561198061280822/21:24 - Hunter: i love you
21:24 - ZakMcRofl: valve might be able to help you21:24 - ZakMcRofl: explain what happened21:24 - ZakMcRofl: they can look into the trade history21:24 - ZakMcRofl: least they will do is restore the item21:24 - Hunter: yup it was a lvl 77 jeecap w orb fire
21:25 - Hunter: thats it
21:25 - ZakMcRofl: it is the same hat21:25 - Hunter: ya
21:25 - Hunter: exact same
21:25 - ZakMcRofl: http://www.tf2items.com/item/78675856721:25 - ZakMcRofl: history21:25 - ZakMcRofl: how did he scam you?21:25 - Hunter: he hacked a trusted middleman
21:25 - ZakMcRofl: 1sec21:25 - Hunter: atom, he had a good rep, only later did i read he was being impersinated
21:26 - ZakMcRofl: i think i understand their scheme better now21:26 - ZakMcRofl: i just need to get them to admit to it21:26 - Hunter: ya
21:26 - Hunter: ok
21:26 - Hunter: who r u?
21:26 - ZakMcRofl: i will voice chat you21:26 - Hunter: like steam batman?
21:26 - ZakMcRofl: just another potential victim21:26 - Hunter: cool
So I explain to him that I think that Mr. Shnipz is trying to do the TF2 equivalent of the "Fiddle Game" con on me:
Mr. Shnipz has gone offline by now so I spend some time with Hunter reconstructing how he got scammed. He still has the scammer who approached him on his friends list and it turns out the fake middleman was the same one that was used when I was approached, only under the name "Atom-3000+hours of TF2" (trusted middleman). By the way, if you ever need to trace back who you traded with, go to View -> Inventory and click "View Inventory History" in the upper right. Anyways, I promise Hunter to try to build a case against those scammers and ask him not to scare them off in the meantime. I try to contact the other unusual's previous owner with no success.21:38 - ZakMcRofl: V = victom, A= scammer A, B=Scammer B21:39 - ZakMcRofl: A approaches V telling him that he would pay 100 for something worth 1021:39 - Hunter: yup
21:39 - ZakMcRofl: B conveniently offers the item for 5021:39 - ZakMcRofl: V buys from B, hoping for quick profit21:39 - Hunter: yup
21:39 - ZakMcRofl: A is suddenly not interested in it anymore21:40 - ZakMcRofl: thats what he was pulling with me i think
Finally, Mr. Shnipz returns. Since we still cannot be sure that he is part of the scam and didn't just buy the hat from the scammer, I try to lure him into lying:
22:23 - Mr.Shnipz: heyAh, he is getting pushy again. Time to test my theory so I add the owner of hat he wants so desperately, let's call him Spock. Carefully I try to figure out if I was right about my suspicions and if Spock is trying to get some of my fine unusuals from me. Since he is asking a low price and seems like a nice guy, I explain the situation to him and keep him friended.
22:23 - ZakMcRofl: hi22:23 - Mr.Shnipz: you talk to him?
22:23 - ZakMcRofl: not yet, no22:24 - Mr.Shnipz: k he add you?
22:24 - ZakMcRofl: he is offline, so no22:24 - Mr.Shnipz: ok
22:24 - Mr.Shnipz: yea if you get get it that be great :)
22:25 - ZakMcRofl: cool unusuals, where did you get em from?22:25 - ZakMcRofl: unbox?22:27 - Mr.Shnipz: nah...i bought them when i first heard about unusual hats...and i got like 500 dollars for my birthday so ya :D
22:27 - Mr.Shnipz: its good investment :P
22:27 - Mr.Shnipz: you unbox yours?
22:30 - ZakMcRofl: how can you play tf2 and not hear about unusuals :)22:30 - ZakMcRofl: its the world's biggest hat simulator after all22:31 - Mr.Shnipz: well at first i played the game reg. with the defaut games like 2fort...then i got onto a server and i saw one...and i was like wtf!
22:31 - Mr.Shnipz: lol
22:31 - Mr.Shnipz: so ever since :)
22:31 - ZakMcRofl: and you paid 500 bucks for it?22:31 - ZakMcRofl: thats insane22:32 - Mr.Shnipz: no liek 100 for the jeep and like 180 for marauder...spent rest on soccer cleats :P
22:32 - Mr.Shnipz: but anyways...you postitive youll get the hat cuz im about to buy 2 white paints
An idea forms in my head and I switch to Mr Shnipz's chat again:
22:32 - Mr.Shnipz: but anyways...you postitive youll get the hat cuz im about to buy 2 white paintsBy the way, this confirmed that they are not working together.
22:32 - ZakMcRofl: i am not positive, no22:32 - ZakMcRofl: its hard to get stuff like that22:32 - Mr.Shnipz: o
22:33 - ZakMcRofl: anger is a popular hat22:33 - ZakMcRofl: the guy is looking for 6 buds22:33 - Mr.Shnipz: yes but its 4.5
22:33 - ZakMcRofl: what did he say he was looking for?22:34 - Mr.Shnipz: idk but he told me he doesnt like my marauder
22:34 - Mr.Shnipz: im sure one of your hats is worth what he wants :)
22:37 - ZakMcRofl: so do you want exactly this anger22:37 - ZakMcRofl: or any anger?22:39 - Mr.Shnipz: any..i would like an orbit fire one or g energy
Now it gets tense! He opens a trade with me and places Hunter's Orbiting Fire Jeepcap into the trade. Apparently he wants to to give it to me, assuming that I would use it to get the hat from Spock.22:39 - ZakMcRofl: and you would 2:1?22:39 - Mr.Shnipz: yes
22:39 - ZakMcRofl: that guy has smoking22:39 - Mr.Shnipz: ok get it ...
22:39 - Mr.Shnipz: you can get it now?
22:39 - ZakMcRofl: trying to22:40 - Mr.Shnipz: kk
22:40 - ZakMcRofl: steaming, not smoking22:40 - Mr.Shnipz: how much it worth?
22:40 - Mr.Shnipz: o yes steamign is great
22:40 - Mr.Shnipz: get it ....lol
22:44 - Mr.Shnipz: u get it?
22:44 - ZakMcRofl: not yet22:44 - ZakMcRofl: relax22:45 - Mr.Shnipz: lol ok
22:45 - Mr.Shnipz: you talkign to him :)?
22:47 - ZakMcRofl: yo22:48 - Mr.Shnipz: yes?
22:48 - Mr.Shnipz: lol
22:50 - Mr.Shnipz: im just asking because i need to get the white paint for my boots and the hat, unloess you can find out if it already has white paint on it.. thanks for your help :)
22:51 - ZakMcRofl: its not painted afaik22:51 - Mr.Shnipz: afaik? and ok
22:53 - ZakMcRofl: as far as i know22:55 - Mr.Shnipz: kk.. you postive you going to get it?
Mr.Shnipz is now playing Team Fortress 2. Click here to join.
23:01 - Mr.Shnipz: how you doing on it?
23:04 - Mr.Shnipz: you there?
23:06 - ZakMcRofl: yo sorry23:06 - ZakMcRofl: he's hard to deal with23:06 - Mr.Shnipz: ask him if yed take my stuff
23:07 - Mr.Shnipz: who is it?
23:07 - ZakMcRofl: that Spock guy23:07 - Mr.Shnipz: o ask him if hed take your hat and my jeep cap...
23:07 - Mr.Shnipz: and ill give you y marauder
23:08 - ZakMcRofl: i offered my crown and he said no23:08 - ZakMcRofl: he said he would do it for the jeepcap and my crown23:08 - Mr.Shnipz: offer something else dude..im givign you profit
23:08 - Mr.Shnipz: ok do it and ill give you the marauder
Needless to say I accept with a pounding heart...
... OMG I have the hat!
Of course I have to tell Hunter about the new development right away:
I promise him to give the hat back later and keep it in my backpack in order to not scare off Mr. Shnipz. Having the upper hand now, I am trying to get him to admit to his lies.23:09 - ZakMcRofl: 23:09 - ZakMcRofl: OH MY GOD23:09 - ZakMcRofl: he traded me the jeepcap23:09 - ZakMcRofl: for NOTHIGN23:10 - ZakMcRofl: you there?Hunter is now Away.
23:15 - ZakMcRofl: DUDE23:15 - ZakMcRofl: GO ONLINEHunter is now Online.
23:15 - Hunter: why
23:15 - Hunter: wuts up?
23:15 - ZakMcRofl: http://steamcommunity.com/id/zakmcrofl/inventory#440_2_791491348 (picture of the stolen hat with ownership info)23:15 - ZakMcRofl: OWNED BY23:15 - ZakMcRofl: ZAKMCROFL23:15 - ZakMcRofl: i got your hat23:15 - Hunter: dood thank SOOOOOO much
23:15 - ZakMcRofl: haha that guy is such a tool23:15 - Hunter: i love you
23:15 - Hunter: i LLLLOOOOOVVVEEE YYOUI
23:16 - Hunter: im so happy...words cant express
23:16 - ZakMcRofl: haha23:16 - Hunter: how?
23:16 - ZakMcRofl: this story is so fucking epic23:16 - ZakMcRofl: this is going on reddit.com23:16 - Hunter: omg i bet
23:16 - ZakMcRofl: i am writing it all down23:16 - ZakMcRofl: that guy is such a moron23:16 - Hunter: you are....steam batman
23:16 - ZakMcRofl: i guess i am lol
EpilogueI think that the rest of the story is most amusing in transcript form (scroll to 23:11 in http://pastebin.com/JJRQQY4J ) but I will some it up here.
First, I get him to admit that his birthday is in january. Since the item history shows that he got the hat in April, me must have been lying about it being a birthday gift.
I give him a huge benefit of the doubt and let him try to prove that he purchased it.
He posts a hillarious fake Paypal statement:
http://i.imgur.com/ieLLE.png (I edited the email address)
and cannot resist to call him out on it:
Damn, that seems to be the end of it. But wait, he is still in my friendslist!23:57 - ZakMcRofl: wow you even suck at faking screenshots23:57 - Mr.Shnipz: but i dont understand how to do it i just copyed and pasted it ff the site
23:57 - ZakMcRofl: Delivery to the following recipient failed permanently:Skychief12@yahoo.com23:58 - Mr.Shnipz: yes thats his email
23:58 - ZakMcRofl: yeah, it doesn't exist[...]00:02 - ZakMcRofl: you can get it back if you provide proof00:02 - ZakMcRofl: a crappy screenshot and some faked text is not proof00:03 - Mr.Shnipz: your a bully faget
00:03 - Mr.Shnipz: thanks for beign a bully
00:03 - ZakMcRofl: i am not scamming people00:03 - ZakMcRofl: you are00:03 - Mr.Shnipz: you scammer
00:03 - Mr.Shnipz: i thought we were friend sand nwo you scammed me
00:03 - Mr.Shnipz: thanks a lot and imk contacting steam support
Mr.Shnipz left chat.
Never tell your password to anyone.Note that I only invoke reddit as my personal army at this point because I want to get him to return the remaining unusuals. Public shame seems like the best option, but then I get a better idea. Steam chat is P2P, you can easily notice by the huge lag the chat sometimes has. So I open up wireshark, record all outgoing IP traffic and click on the "Start Voice chat" button. He accepts.
Mittwoch, 11. April 2012
00:04 - ZakMcRofl: ok this is going straight on reddit00:04 - ZakMcRofl: and to valve00:05 - ZakMcRofl: i got your entire little scam circus on tape00:05 - Mr.Shnipz: lol idc.....you scammer
00:05 - ZakMcRofl: you , your fake middleman00:05 - ZakMcRofl: you want steam ids?00:05 - ZakMcRofl: http://steamcommunity.com/profiles/7656119805947088400:06 - ZakMcRofl: http://steamcommunity.com/profiles/7656119804598148600:06 - ZakMcRofl: http://steamcommunity.com/profiles/7656119805947088400:06 - Mr.Shnipz: lol yep and yepo...i SCAMM PEOPLE....IVE SCAMMED SO MANY THINGS FROM PEOPLE YOU DONT EVEN RELIZE>>>IM THE ONE WHO FUCKS EVERYONE UP...AND U MAKE IT STOP!!!lolIM NOT STOPPING...ITS ONLY THE BEGINNING!! :)
00:07 - Mr.Shnipz: HAHAHAHHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHA
00:07 - ZakMcRofl: you realize valve will delete your account and all your game in it00:07 - ZakMcRofl: and your friends00:07 - ZakMcRofl: and your real account00:07 - ZakMcRofl: once this goes to reddit.com00:07 - Mr.Shnipz: LOL LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL
00:07 - ZakMcRofl: i can't believe you fell for a reverse scam. scamming a scammer. that is GOLD00:07 - ZakMcRofl: so greedy00:08 - Mr.Shnipz: LOL IT WAS A FREE HAT IDC
00:08 - Mr.Shnipz: LOL
00:08 - Mr.Shnipz: YOU REALLY THINK I FUCKING CARE
00:08 - ZakMcRofl: it is illegal, fraud, if you get caught you could face jailtime. stealing a 100$ item is not a petty crime00:08 - ZakMcRofl: i hope you realize that00:09 - Mr.Shnipz: lol
00:14 - Mr.Shnipz: ?I tell him on the call that by accepting it, he allowed me to record his home IP address (via wireshark). This apparently has the intended effect:
Mr.Shnipz has ended the call.
00:15 - Mr.Shnipz: look dude im srry ok i will never scam again...i promiseNow that we have admission of guilt, I talk to hunter to give him his hat back
00:15 - ZakMcRofl: you are not anonymous on steam00:16 - ZakMcRofl: your ip has been recorded00:16 - Mr.Shnipz: ill give you my unusuals...im dont with the game
00:16 - Hunter: wow
00:16 - Hunter: we should return the maurauder to its owner to
00:17 - ZakMcRofl: yeah00:17 - Hunter: can i haz my hat back tho?
00:17 - ZakMcRofl: ok course :)
00:18 - Hunter: k thanks
Hunter has accepted your request to trade.
00:18 - ZakMcRofl: you're welcomeMeanwhile Mr. Shnipz is scared shitless and I force him to list all of his steam profiles. Turns out the fake middleman is also him, so I get him to switch to that account and make the backpack public. I am fishing for more intel on potential accomplices but he's either very loyal or there really weren't any. Finally he admits that he is just 14 years old and has scammed "only" 3 unusual hats which are not in his posession anymore. He seems to be pretty shaken:
00:18 - Hunter: u dont know what this meen 4 me man
00:18 - Hunter: thanks so much
00:19 - Hunter: im gunna name my child after you
00:19 - Hunter: ZacMcRofl <HuntersFamilyName>
00:19 - Hunter: the 3rd
00:25 - ZakMcRofl: still in chat with him
00:25 - ZakMcRofl: i got his IP adress00:26 - ZakMcRofl: he got caught with his pants WAY down00:27 - Hunter: lol
00:27 - ZakMcRofl: do you plan to prosecute him?00:27 - ZakMcRofl: its fraud / theft after all00:27 - Hunter: im on a phone caLL WITH MY buddy, add him, your his hero
00:27 - ZakMcRofl: i can't let him off the hook, that is up to you00:27 - ZakMcRofl: tell him to add me00:28 - Hunter: i honestly dont care, i got my hat back and i got taught a valuable lesson
00:28 - ZakMcRofl: you mean HE got taught it00:28 - Hunter: but i also dont want this scammer loose
00:29 - Hunter: ya,, but i also learned 2 be more carful
Never tell your password to anyone.Well I won't make him sign a contract but instead tell him that I would publish this story. And that he should duck and cover for a shitstorm of angry reddit nerds coming his way.
Mittwoch, 11. April 2012
00:29 - vis: hey
00:29 - vis: so im srry again
00:30 - ZakMcRofl: make your backpack public00:30 - vis: ok
00:30 - vis: k
00:30 - vis: you can look nothing in there
00:30 - vis: just sticky jumper
00:31 - ZakMcRofl: what other accounts are involved00:31 - ZakMcRofl: (do NOT lie)00:31 - ZakMcRofl: i got a list00:31 - vis: what you mean...my other accounts
00:31 - vis: ?
00:31 - ZakMcRofl: all steam accounts that were involved00:31 - ZakMcRofl: profile urls00:32 - vis: nsane321
00:32 - ZakMcRofl: profile urls00:32 - ZakMcRofl: like this one00:32 - ZakMcRofl: http://steamcommunity.com/profiles/76561198045981486/00:32 - vis: http://steamcommunity.com/profiles/76561198059470884
00:33 - vis: thats th eaccoutn i used to buy the hat from dresno just so you know
00:33 - ZakMcRofl: ok, what else00:33 - ZakMcRofl: what other profiles00:33 - vis: like my other ones?
00:34 - ZakMcRofl: yes00:34 - vis: http://steamcommunity.com/profiles/76561198043908434
00:34 - vis: http://steamcommunity.com/profiles/76561198047533968
00:35 - ZakMcRofl: and do NOT bullshit me00:35 - vis: http://steamcommunity.com/profiles/76561198007564932
00:35 - vis: im NOT
00:36 - ZakMcRofl: what about the rest?00:36 - vis: http://steamcommunity.com/profiles/76561198061089758
00:36 - vis: those and mine currently right now
00:37 - ZakMcRofl: make the bp public on the last one00:37 - vis: i swere those are it...i want to go clean and not do this anymore...i love the game and i respect you....i wouldnt ever do it again....i can sign a contract with you
In a way I feel sorry for the kid, he is only 14, did some really stupid shit and is genuinely scared that the police might come knocking at his door. So I tell him to return all unusuals, if he still has any, to their rightful owners. And that I will release his IP if one of his victims gets in touch with me.
Finally I tell him to leave all the accounts I mentioned behind, to prevent the shitstorm.
So that's it, my first blog entry. Will it be the last? I felt that this story should be shared for the good of the community. I love this game and I f*cking hate scammers.
Finally I ask you, my reader, to please NOT hassle him, if you should find him. He is very scared and remorseful and will certainly not do it again.