Scams in EVE Online

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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. And remember, if something seems too good to be true then it probably is! Turn anything suspicious down, and don't be afraid to ask for advice or information from people you trust.

Contents

Forbidden/bannable actions

Although CCP consider most scams as simply part of the game, some actions are explicitly forbidden:

Character sale fraud

If fraud is committed in the sale of a character through the character bazaar, you can petition and have everything reversed.

Impersonation

Impersonating another character or corporation is a bannable offense.

Griefing in rookie systems

CCP designate several systems as "rookie systems", consisting of the starter systems, the career agent systems, and Arnon. The canonical list can be found 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

Scamming someone out of real life assets through an ingame 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.

Recourse

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.

Chat and Market Scams

Begging

This is the simplest scam around, where a player asks for ISK donations in popular channels (trade hub local, NPC corp chat, etc.), and tells a story about how they lost their ship, just started out or even lost all their belongings to a scammer!

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.

ISK doubling

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 satisfied 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.

The Margin Trading Scam

This scam exploits the mechanic where a character with the Icon skillbook2.png 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.

  1. The scammer buys up all of an uncommon item in a region, say for 1B ISK each.
  2. They make a bunch of sale orders to sell them for around 2B ISK each.
  3. They put up a few buy orders for 500M ISK each.
  4. They put up a margin drunken buy order offering 5B ISK each with a minimum number, say 5.
  5. They transfer most of the money away from their drunken buy alt.

This is how they hope the victim will respond:

  1. The victim sees the opportunity to buy items for 2B ISK and immediately sell them for 5B ISK each.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Contract Scams

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 short-changes 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.

Similar names

These are contracts offering terms 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 and rely on people not checking the actual item being offered. For example, someone might advertise a normal Raven as a Raven Navy Issue. Or they might advertise a faction variant that looks good but doesn't even exist. This can also work with modules with similar names such as a less powerful Pith C-Type in a contract advertised as an stronger A- or X-Type. In some extreme cases they could try to fool you with similar looking item names, like a unit of the element Carbon masquerading as the valuable Charon freighter, but those are much easier to spot as you often get a visual representation of the item along with the name.

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 security space 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)

No-access courier contracts

A courier contract with a delivery destination that the delivering pilot does not have access to.

What you see

A courier contract with a high collateral. These contracts also usually have high rewards for their length to entice unsuspecting players into accepting them, and the collateral is usually much more than the cargo is worth.

How it works

The contract owner will be part of a corporation or alliance that owns at least one structure, and that structure's access will generally be restricted to only members of that group. Because there is not currently a convenient method of verifying whether a pilot has access to a structure, a player who accepts this contract will be unable to complete the delivery, and the scammer will make a profit on the cost of the cargo due to the large collateral.

How to recognize the scam

These courier scams can be difficult to spot due to the flexibility of structure placement. While more technologically-inclined players can use ESI to check if a pilot has access privileges, most players should assume that any unknown player-owned structure is inaccessible to them.

As with courier ganking, no-access contracts can also be recognized by their unusually high reward payout and disproportionately high collateral for their cargo.

Manipulated Buy Orders

The contractor will advertise a contract for several copies of the same item at an inflated price but will put in buy order at en even slightly higher price. As soon as you buy the contract the scammer withdraw the buy orders.

Note that since this is highly time-sensitive, requiring the scammer to constantly monitor the market and be ready to change or cancel the order at a moment's notice, it's very unlikely that people actually do these type of scams with normal buy orders. More commonly they combine the contract with buy orders using the margin trading scam listed above to give them plenty of time to adjust their buy orders without having the risk of them being filled before they can change them.

What you see

A contract for several copy of an item. The market shows buy orders for this item at a higher price, potentially giving you net benefits if you take the contract and sell the items immediately on the market.

How it works

Prices are example:

  • The scammer create a contract for 3 items for a total of 500 million ISK
  • The scammer also places 3 different buy orders for 200 million ISK each, making you think that you can buy and resell immediately for 100 million ISK profit
  • As soon as you accept the contract the scammer withdraw their buy orders, or they fail due to lack of ISK. If the actual market price is 100 million ISK, you have lost 200 million ISK.
  • Making 3 different buy orders makes it longer for you to resell all your items, the buy orders usually have .1 ISK difference so a lambda will usually try to sell the items one by one. Giving more time to the scammer to remove the other buy orders. Even if you manage to resell 1 of the item before the buy order is removed, you have lost 100 million ISK

How to recognise the scam

  • Contract price suspiciously higher that current market buy order prices
  • For a given item, a couple of buy order prices with a much greater price than the others

Other Miscellaneous Scams

Can flipping

Someone comes ongrid with you and outright steals your loot or ore from a can, temporarily flagging themselves as a suspect, 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, which is highly likely as in almost all circumstances PvP-fitted ships will defeat PvE- or mining-fitted ships, they can also loot your wreck for added profit.

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.

Can Baiting

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.

CCP takes a dim view of can baiting in rookie systems, but it's fair game anywhere else.

Suspect baiting

An experienced PvPer will give themselves a Suspect Timer and then hang out in a weak ship close to a station. The suspect flag means they can be attacked in high security space 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 PvP-fitted ship, and because they can attack their attacker without CONCORD intervention, then proceeds to do so and kills them.

Kill Right baiting

A player will use an alt to put a moderately priced kill right on themselves (enough to turn a profit, while still being cheap enough to lure you in) and idle near a gate or station in a reasonably cheap but defenceless looking ship. Another variant is having the bait travel back and forth along a known trade route in order to be more like "live" bait. Other players can then buy the kill right, thereby flagging the baiting player as a suspect, then engage and destroy their ship without CONCORD intervention. The baiting player may have lost a cheap ship but they can collect the money from both the kill right and the insurance money. This can also be done with more costly ships, like freighters and 1 billion ISK kill rights, where the baiting player actually turns a huge profit (several hundred million ISK) on the kill right, but this depends on the individual insurance payout of the ship in question. Insurance itself is based on the minerals and parts required to build them and varies greatly between ship types. 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 a nearby stargate in the hopes to avoid losing the ship at all, thus increasing their profits.

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.

Mining Permits

Some ingame 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. Just run from these people if you can.

How it works

This is a fairly standard protection racket form of the sale of intangibles, combined with piracy and various degrees of role playing. As with all of the scams of this type, it rests on there being no ingame mechanism to enforce the agreement. This is true of any sort of permit or ransom. Once you transfer ISK to someone it's gone.

Trade Window

This scam relies on timing, typically 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, for some arbitrary reason like not having 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 change the ISK amount to "0" and quickly accept the trade. Normally any chance or alteration of amount of modules would invalidate previous acceptance of the trade, but if they time it right by changing the value right after you add items, but before you click "Accept", you might accidentally accept the 0 ISK offer without knowing it.

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. For example, naming 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.

Ambush sale

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 go through low or null security space in order to collect the item. When you undock after picking it up, they'll ambush you. The scammer has a 50% chance of getting their item(s) 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 security status of the destination alone is not fool-proof as some high security systems have no direct route through high security space, but forces you to enter low or null security space at some point along the route.

Big Schemes

Some of EVE's richer players like to run banks, investment schemes or IPOs (initial public offering). Occasionally these are even legitimate, but generally 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.

Banks

There are no ingame systems for administrating and controlling ingame banks. Even if banks in Eve are started with the best of intentions, that much ISK concentrated in one place is an irresistible 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.

Ponzi scheme

Those running a Ponzi scheme pretend that the money they receive is invested, and the profits are distributed to the investors via dividends. In reality however, the dividends paid to existing investors are being funded by the money from new investors and administrators pocket the rest. Once they've reached the desired amount of ISK that they're happy with, they simply take the money and run.

Corporate theft

Corporate 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 and as roles and trust grow, the opportunities to steal increase and could even evolve into alliance theft. It can't be emphasized enough that a person who's seriously looking to steal from a corporation or alliance, will not show their true intentions until it's too late.

You can guard, or at least help mitigate, against such theft to some extent by spreading assets and not allowing a single person access to the majority of your assets -- or, even more simply, by never having any valuable assets in the first place. When it comes to being less vulnerable to corporate infiltrators removing players from your corporation or messing with roles, one thing you can do is to give all useful members a role. This gives you at least a day's warning by forcing the infiltrator hand a day in advance, as you need to remove roles from someone before kicking them.

Recruitment Scams

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 (only to kick them out shortly after). 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 or jump freighter. The scammers can charge an additional fee for this, and then take the recruits' assets as well. Another common thing is to offer the newly invited victim an "escort" or use of their jump network only to turn on them and destroy them. With friendly-fire turned on for your corporation, this can be done anywhere as CONCORD won't interfere.

This scam can usually be spotted with some basic research on any corp you join. Particularly check their killboard for expensive in-corp kills.

Lotteries

It's "very" easy to fake a reputation and establish a lottery, so be cautious.

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