Scams in EVE Online
Scams come in all shapes, sizes, and flavors. This article will give you an overview of the most common types but is in no way a comprehensive guide to every scam you may see in EVE.
To understand a scam you have to understand the target. Scammers aim for those who are greedy, hasty, and/or ignorant. 90% of scams can be avoided by double checking a contract inventory, or carefully thinking a situation through.
Remember: if something seems too good to be true, it probably is! Turn anything suspicious down, and don't be afraid to ask for advice or information (Do Rifter Fleet Issues really exist? (No.)) from people you trust.
Although CCP regards most scams as simply part of the game, there are some tricks which they explicitly forbid:
Character sale fraud
If fraud is committed in the sale of a character through the character bazaar you can petition and have everything reversed.
Impersonating another character or corporation is a bannable offense. Point finale.
CCP designate several systems as "rookie systems", consisting of the starter systems, the career agent systems, and Arnon. The canonical list is here.
- "Attempting to abuse a new player’s lack of knowledge of the game and its mechanic for your personal gain or simply for their harm is prohibited in these solar systems."
Real Life Assets
It shouldn't really need stating, but scamming someone out of real life assets through an in-game scam is not permitted, since it's almost certainly against the law where you live. However, a grey area that might affect you is that encouraging someone through a chat session to buy a PLEX and then scamming it off them may be considered over the line and get your scam reversed. You can freely scam someone out of PLEX they already own, or that they buy without your encouragement.
PLEX for GOOD
Using a PLEX for GOOD campaign to scam people out of ISK, items or PLEX is expicitly forbidden by CCP and will earn you a permanent ban.
With the exception of the schemes listed above, CCP does not regard scamming as a petitionable offence. Like suicide ganking, scamming is one of New Eden's natural dangers, and it's up to players to protect themselves.
Once you've been scammed all you can do is set negative standings to the scammer and hope you catch them at a disadvantage one day in lowsec or nullsec.
Chat and Market Scams
This is the simplest scam around where a player asks for ISK donations in popular channels (trade hub local, NPC corp chat, etc.), and tell a story about how they lost their ship.
What you see
The player will plead for help in the local trade hub, sometimes apologizing for having to 'beg'. Where the character is created for this purpose there is sometimes a tendency to use a female avatar and name to exploit sexuality. The language used will be purposefully naive and constructed to express little knowledge of the cruel harsh aspects of the game.
How it works
Sympathy for the unfortunate is the aspect of human nature that they are tapping into and hoping to trick the more altruistic players into donating funds, ships and equipment to help the new unfortunate victim of the harsh game mechanics. In its most basic aspects it is social engineering of the human trait to help others who are a victim of circumstance. Though it is of course possible that they're telling the truth (you could ask for the link to their combat log), if you observe the dialogue in the channel it will be too consistently touching the right buttons to be evident manipulation of sympathy responses.
This is one of the most common scams in Eve and is very popular in all the main trade hubs with frequent adverts spammed in local. The adverts will generally indicate that they are super rich players who want to give back to the game.
What you see
Local chat in which the scammer offers to send you a great deal of ISK if you send them some first. They support their legitimacy with satified customer testimonials (often alts or co-conspirators) and wallet links. The wallet links are all faked and there are some popular sites that can set up a faked wallet API.
How it works
You'd really like to have more money, so you send them some money. They keep it, send you nothing, and block you. Some scammers may actually double your ISK as long as the amount is small to drum up business and try to get you to send more, but rest assured when you send a large enough amount, they'll keep it.
Sometimes they'll have alts or buddies chat in local indicating they've won and it's legit.
There is another variant commonly named, "the Bonus Room." In this version, after the victim has delivered the inital ISK, the scammer will inform the victim that they have randomly been selected for, "the Bonus Room." The victim is then told to join a certain Teamspeak/Mumble channel, and will be told to do all sorts of activities, including linking a full API, singing, contracting all property over to the scammer, be verbally abused, and/or being podded to destroy your implants, all with the promise of multiplied ISK if you can perform all of the tasks.
|A long, long time ago...|
| Until the Rhea update in December 2014, having your pod destroyed carried the risk of skillpoint loss upon death. This could be prevented by purchasing upgrades to your medical clone, sometimes at significant expense.
Past versions of the Bonus Room had the victim be repeatedly podded, without purchasing these clone upgrades beforehand. Months or even years of training time could be lost in this way.
The Margin Trading Scam
The Margin Trading Scam exploits the mechanic where a character with the Margin Trading skill can place buy orders and only place a portion of the ISK in escrow. If they then transfer all of their ISK away, the order will fail when someone tries to sell to it, essentially allowing them to make a fake buy order. It is also known as The Drunken Buy Order because it is often announced in local that a player must have been drunk when they placed a buy order. There are a couple of variations, but they all depend on margin buy orders failing and/or upon the victim not knowing the true value of the item they're trading.
What you see
The scammer announces in a chat channel (usually local) that a player must have been drunk when they put up their buy order and invites you to check it out with a link to the item being sold. They lament the fact that they can't afford to fill the buy order. Following the link, players will see a buy order offering a great deal more than the sell price of the item. If the player can act fast and deliver the items in the order before anyone else, they stand to multiply their ISK invested.
How it works
All numbers are examples.
- The scammer buys up all of an uncommon item in a region, say for 1B ISK each.
- They make a bunch of sale orders to sell them for around 2B ISK each.
- They put up a few buy orders for 500M ISK each.
- They put up a margin drunken buy order offering 5B ISK each with a minimum number, say 5.
- They transfer most of the money away from their drunken buy alt.
This is how they hope the victim will respond:
- The victim sees the opportunity to buy items for 2B ISK and immediately sell them for 5B ISK each.
- Scam 1: They buy enough items at 2B ISK to fulfill the buy order. This is above market value and the scammer has already made money.
- The victim submits a sell order for the 5 items. However, the buy order was on margin, and the drunken buyer does not have the cash to pay for it, so it fails.
- Scam 2: The sale will then revert to the next best buy order, which is for 500M each. 500M kinda looks like 5B if you're in a hurry, so if the victim clicks OK, the scammer buys the items at below market value.
How to recognize the scam
- Someone using chat to offer strangers the opportunity to make a lot of money.
- Look for buy orders with minimum volumes. Multiple sell orders can fill a single buy order, so there's no good reason for them.
- The buy order is for a low-volume item that you're not familiar with.
- If EVE-Central has any others on record, they're far away and way cheaper.
This is one of the trickiest scams, since so far as you can tell from the market interface it's all genuine - there's no sure way to tell that a listed buy order is fake. If the scammer has been lazy then inspection of the sell orders can tip you off that they were all placed by the same person, such as identical expiration dates, but a decent scammer will add some jitter to make it look real. Your best defence is not to trade expensive items that you're not familiar with the value of. If you're still tempted to trade an unfamiliar item then look it up on Eve Central to see what the price is in other regions.
In EVE, contracts themselves are rock solid: you'll pay and receive what the contract terms specify. Where scams come in is mainly in having you make mistakes in thinking what the terms of a contract actually are. In particular, the title of a contract need not match what the actual terms are. Virtually all contracts being advertised in local in a trade hub fall into one of these scam categories. Always read the terms of your contract and verify they're what you want.
Double WTB contracts
It's a contract that looks like a buyer willing to pay over market prices for expensive items (often PLEX) but the contract is actually for multiples.
What you see
It's a contract to buy items that seems to offer above-market rates. They are often linked to in local chat.
How it works
This scam exploits the fact that a contract's title (nor local chat announcement) need not match its contents. The contract title says something like, "WTB PLEX for 890M ISK," when the going rate is 750M, for example. However, the terms of the contract actually state that the buyer will pay 890M ISK for two PLEX. These contracts are often linked to in local chat.
If you want a failsafe, only ever keep a single copy of an expensive mod (or PLEX) on hand when selling to WTB contracts.
Combined WTS/WTB contracts
It's a contract that sells items for ISK and the item.
What you see
It looks like a contract to sell an item for below market rates e.g. "WTS PLEX for 400M." They are often linked to in local chat.
How it works
Again, this exploits the idea that a contract's title and its contents do not need to match. In our example, the actual contract sells the PLEX for 400M and one PLEX. So the seller gets 400M and their item back. This is not always easy to spot, as the item up for "sale" and the price you pay are next to each other at the top of the screen, but the item you give is further down the screen.
Fittings without ship
It's a contract that shortchanges a buyer some important items.
What you see
You see a contract selling a ship (often a Hulk) for a seemingly very low price. It says that they're offering the ship and all the fittings, but the contract terms will only have the fittings.
How it works
You look at the contract terms, see a whole bunch of appropriate ship fittings (and maybe cheap cargo), and miss the absence of the actual ship in the terms.
Multiples of 1000
This scam can involve market buy orders or contracts. Simply, the scammer sets up a buy order/buy contract at 1/1000 the average price. It relies on people not noticing the difference between 121 thousand and 121 million.
This scam can also be run with markets, especially in low population regions by offering ships or modules at 10x their price. For example if you're not careful and need a rifter, you might accept the only sell order in the region as the average, while they're selling at 100m instead of 100k.
This scam works can be assisted by someone announcing in local broadcasting the contract and announcing they are selling at the lower price when the contract is actually selling at the higher price.
These are contracts offering ierms with similar names to what you want, but not really.
What you see
The scammer will advertise a ship or module as its faction variant (sometimes a faction variant that doesn't even exist!) and rely on people not checking the actual item being offered. (Someone might, for example, advertise a normal Raven as a Raven Navy Issue.) This can also work with modules with similar names such as a Pith C-Type in a contract advertised as an A- or X-Type. (A unit of the element Carbon masquerading as the valuable Charon freighter is a good -- and amusing -- example.)
The Three Ships
The Three Ships is a scam that tricks the victim into buying a overpriced ship because they just missed out on a good deal.
What you see
It's an announcement of a set of three sell contracts for ships, separated by a timer. The linked contract shows a desirable (often faction) ship being offered at a bargain price, but it's already gone. But the countdown timer is running and you might be able to scoop up one of the other two.
How it works
- The first two ship contracts offer the ship at a considerably lower price than market value. The person who clicks on it will see the extremely low price but find they are just too late. Actually, the contracts were taken by the scammer's alt before they were even linked.
- The third ship is the sting. Having missed out on two ships, a player not wanting to miss out again will race to click on that one, not noting the additional zeros that reprice the ship e.g. from 20 million to 200 million.
Never buy anything in a rush, and always read contracts carefully.
Courier Contract Ganking
It's a hauling contract where the intent is to kill the hauler and make them forfeit the collateral.
What you see
A Courier Contract that pays more per jump than average, like ten to thirty million for delivering on a route only five or ten jumps away. The collateral will be far higher than the item is worth. The route goes through low-sec or a 0.5 system.
How it works
The courier route will take the hauler through a low-sec or 0.5 system. While they are in that system, the scammers will destroy the hauler, forcing them to forfeit the collateral. The scammers get the collateral, a kill, and possibly the cargo as well. The victim loses the collateral, their ship, and possibly their pod.
How to recognize the scam
The contract will:
- be a only be available for a day;
- specify a collateral number worth way more than the cargo;
- be too big for a frigate but small enough to fit in an Industrial (more easily ganked) and not realistic for a Freighter for such a short haul;
- have a delivery route will be through low-trafficked systems and at least one 0.5 or less system (so the odd industrial passing through can be easily passive cargo scanned)
Other Miscellaneous Scams
Someone enters your mission space or ratting/mining belt and outright steals your loot or ore from a can, temporarily flagging themselves to you as a valid target. Sometimes they do this for a quick, small profit, but more often they're hoping to provoke you into firing on them. If you fire on them, they will then be free to attack you, possibly after swapping to a new ship. After destroying you (in almost all circumstances PvP-fitted ships will defeat PvE/mining-fitted ships) they can loot your wreck.
The safest approach to take is to simply allow your goods to be stolen. Better to lose a bit of loot than an expensive mission ship. See the pages on canflipping and ninja salvaging and theft for more details.
Related to can flipping, but simpler. A player will put out a can and name it something like "free items" with some modules or ammo inside. They'll wait for someone to take the items and then destroy them as a thief. Someone who really wants to donate items to you will abandon the can so that it's blue. If it's still yellow then it's too good to be true. More sophisticated versions of this scheme are to fleet with someone for missions or incursions and give an item to you such as lyavite ore or your share of the loot, and then their friends pounce and destroy you.
CCP takes a dim view of can baiting in rookie systems, but it's fair game anywhere else.
An experienced PVPer will give himself a suspect flag and then hang out in a weak ship close to a station. The suspect flag means they can be attacked in highsec without CONCORD intervention. The victim attacks the suspect, who then immediately docks his ship or gets a clone. That victim now has a 60 second weapons timer, which means they cannot dock or use a stargate until that timer expires. The suspect then undocks in a real PVP ship, and because he can attack his attacker also without CONCORD intervention, proceeds to do so and kills him.
A player will use an alt to put a moderatly priced killright, usually between 50-100mil ISK, on himself and idle near a gate or station in an, by comparison, cheap T1 industrial. Other players can then buy the killright, thereby flagging the baiting player as suspect, and engage and destroy his/her ship without CONCORD intervention. The baiting player may have lost a cheap ship but he can collect the money from the killright and the insurance money. Other forms may include freighters and 1bil ISK killrights, where the baiting player actually turns a huge profit on the killright, which, minus the cost for the freighter and the insurance, can still net him/her several hundred million ISK overall. Still others might set auto-pilot routes for their ships in an attempt to appear like an unexperienced or unaware player hauling cargo from A to B. This practice, however, could be more tempting to, in turn, new and unexperienced players, especially if they did not scan the ship and do not realize that in most cases it has either valuable cargo nor any valuable mods installed, if any at all.
While this can be done entirely while beeing AFK, some players will still keep an eye on their "bait" and, as soon as they are being attacked, try to dock up or jump through the near stargate in the hopes to get away to avoid losing the ship at all.
Sale of intangibles
This is the epic tale of selling someone the Golden Gate bridge: someone's selling something that either has no worth, is not verifiable, or simply does not belong to them. For example selling a bookmark to a wormhole with any kind of assurance of what is or is not in there (in terms of sites to run as well as presence of a hostile corporation inside). Another example would be ransoming your ship and pod for the assurance that they'll let you go, then destroying you anyway.
Some in-game groups claims "sovereignty" over all of high security space, and require that miners purchase a mining permit from them and conform to a standard of behavior, otherwise they will kill you.
How it works
This is a fairly standard protection racket form of the sale of intangibles, combined with piracy and no small amount of role playing. As with all of the scams of this type, it rests on there being no in-game mechanism to enforce the agreement. This is true of any sort of permit or ransom. Once you transfer ISK to someone it's gone.
This scam is purely a timing thing. This typically happens when you're selling something. Someone offers you a great price and asks you to trade it via the trade window instead of using a private contract. (They might claim to not have enough money for contract fees.) The scammer will enter the amount of isk in the window, and as soon as you drop the item, they'll 0-out the amount of money and quickly accept the trade. (They have to pull this scam in between the time you drop your item in the trade window and when you hit accept.)
To avoid this scam, never use the trade window when dealing with someone you don't trust when the item is of non-trivial value. (Contract fees are nothing compared to losing an expensive item).
Trade Window: Fake ship name
The player renames their ship to a more expensive ship with a similar icon. EX: They rename a Minmatar Shuttle "Leopard".
To avoid this scam, right click the ship and press "show info". The top right hand corner of the window will have the real ship name
In this scam an item is available in the market or contract for a great deal cheaper than the average. The catch is that you'll either have to lowsec or nullsec in order to collect the item. When you undock after picking it up, bang. The scammer has a 50% chance of getting his item back and pulling the scam again, along with any fittings your ship had.
To avoid this scam, always check the route that will get you to an item. (Checking the sec status of the destination alone is not fool-proof as some highsec systems require traversal of low or null sec.)
Some of Eve's richer players like to run banks, investment schemes or IPOs. Occasionally these are even legitimate! Generally, however, they are not -- remember that there's rarely a compelling reason for anyone else to make ISK for you, and that unlike in real life there are no significant consequences for fraud in New Eden.
There are no in-game systems for administrating and controlling in-game banks. Even if banks in Eve are started with the best of intentions, that much ISK concentrated in one place is an irresistable temptation. Most banks in Eve have ended with someone walking off with the money. You can confidently expect that any banks which haven't died in this way yet will do at some point.
Those running a Ponzi scheme pretend that the money they receive is invested, and the profits are distributed to the investors via dividends. Actually, however, the dividends paid to existing investors are being funded by the money from new investors, and the administrators are pocketing the rest. When they've reached an amount of ISK in the fund that they're happy with, they simply take the money and run.
In 2009 Bernie Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison for stealing billions of dollars in a real-life Ponzi scheme. If Madoff was an Eve character, his player would simply have transferred the ISK to an alt and biomassed him.
Corporate (and alliance) theft is hard to avoid, because the person who intends to steal from you will wait as long as they need to in order to steal what they want. Corporate theft can work on many levels. As roles and trust grow, the opportunities to steal increase. It can't be emphasized enough that a person who's seriously looking to steal from the corporation will not show their intentions until things are too late.
You can guard against corp theft to some extent by never letting too much power and access to assets concentrate in one player's hands -- or, even more simply, by never having any valuable corporate assets in the first place! Making sure that all useful members of your corp have roles, too: a corp infiltrator with director-level access can instantly boot members with no roles, letting them, for example, kick all of a corp's combat-trained pilots and then slaughter the corp's miners.
Reputable corporations usually don't ask for any kind of fees for joining. However, a fake corp -- or a real corp that's not actually interested in recruiting -- can entice potential recruits into applying and then charge a fee for joining, and then kick them again. This can be seen as a variation on the Sale of Intangibles scam. As an extension, recruits might also be offered help transporting their assets to their new home via carrier/jump freighter; the scammers can charge an additional fee for this, and then take the recruits' assets too! Once you're in their corp, CONCORD will no longer protect you if they attack you, so alternatively they may offer an "escort" to your new home and destroy you for your loot.
This scam is a time-honoured tradition among members of Goonswarm and TEST Alliance, though in their case it's carried out by individual members rather than by the corp per se. This scam can usually be spotted with some basic research on any corp you join. Particularly check their killboard for expensive in-corp kills.
It's very easy to fake a reputation and establish a lottery, so be cautious.