1. There is no such thing as a "pending" ban or Steam admin. Anyone threatening your account is a scammer trying to scare you. Read more.

What is a middleman, and how do I use one?

A guide to explain how middlemanning works, and what to look out for if you don't want to be scammed.

The first thing you need to ask yourself is whether you really need a middleman. If any of the following sounds familiar to you, then you DON'T need a middleman:
  • Buyer insists on checking if your items are "glitched" or "duped", and wants to "inspect" them after being traded, or otherwise insists on them changing owners before making a trade. This is a scam.
  • Buyer wants you to prove you are trustworthy or trust a "friend" by loaning your items before making a trade. This is a scam.
  • Someone claiming to be a middleman or Valve employee says they need to "inspect" or "fix" your items, claiming they may disappear or cause bad things to happen. This is a scam.
  • Buyer is trade banned or "locked" and says a special "admin" or "middleman" needs to handle the items for him. (Trade bans cannot be overridden, and are only given to scammers.)
  • Buyer or middleman threatens you with any kind of ban if you don't comply.
  • Everything traded (e.g. no real-world money involved) can be placed in the trade window. Just keep it in a single trade without added steps.
Asking for a middleman, on its own, is not always a bad thing, but you need to understand what a middleman does, and more importantly doesn't do before using one. All of the above are situations when you DON'T need a middleman, and if someone still insists on using one in these cases, you're probably dealing with a scammer.

Here are some legitimate uses for a middleman:
  • Trading for real-world money, such as Bitcoin or PayPal: half the trade takes place outside a trade window.
  • Spycrabbing or other server bets: having a trusted middleman hold items to ensure neither side can back out of a wager when losing
  • Trades involving CD keys, Steam Wallet codes, or CSGO Pins (same reason as PayPal/Bitcoin). Not recommended, even with a middleman!
So, what does a middleman actually do? If you are trading for real-world money, such as Bitcoin or PayPal, you may have a legitimate use for the middleman. Because money cannot be placed into a Steam trade window, someone will normally have to "go first" in a cash-for-items trade, and whoever does that is taking a risk that the other person will run with their items. Remember: Once you trade your items, they're gone for good, so this is a substantial risk.

To mitigate this risk, a middleman may be of help. The middleman is a trusted third party who holds items during an exchange where one or both parties do not trust the other enough to go first, but can both agree to trust someone else to hold the items. This is common for very high value trades. In a nutshell, the following steps will be completed in order:
  1. Buyer and seller mutually agree on a middleman they can both trust.
  2. Seller trades items to middleman (confirm middleman is legit during this step).
  3. While middleman is holding items, buyer sends payment to seller.
  4. Middleman confirms that seller was paid, or other arrangements (spycrab completion, code activation, etc) have been met.
    • If disputes arise, it's the middleman's job to resolve the situation and make a judgement call.
    • In event of a scam, or attempted scam, the victim should submit a report. The middleman will add their perspective.
  5. Assuming #4 was completed properly, middleman trades items from step #2 to buyer.
  6. (OPTIONAL) Both buyer and seller tip the middleman for ensuring a safe trade, or at minimum if you can't/won't provide tips, thank the middleman for their assistance.

So long as the middleman himself does not run off with the items, and you confirm you're dealing with the actual middleman, the above procedure is a pretty safe way of trading CS:GO, TF2, DOTA2, or other Steam items for real-world money. It's important to note, however, that using a middleman cannot prevent a PayPal chargeback scam. Most middlemen are also veteran traders, and will advise you on this before a trade is made. For this reason, if the middleman feels one party is a scammer or something is not right, they will usually refuse to provide assistance and recommend you back down from the trade altogether.

As a trusted third party, it's crucial that both parties can trust and feel comfortable with the middleman. For example, you may trust your best friend, but because your friend would likely take your side in any dispute that arose, the person you're trading with has no reason to trust your friend and he or she is not a good candidate for the middleman. For the same reason, the middleman should be someone you can trust and feel comfortable with, just because the other trader introduces them and assures you they're trustworthy, does not mean you can trust them. Valve recommends you not use middlemen at all (they also recommend not trading for anything outside the trade window), so there is no such thing as an "official" middleman in Steam. Anyone claiming otherwise, or claiming to be "official" or a part of Steam, is probably a scammer.

Note: Steamrep does NOT endorse any community middleman. If you are looking for one we encourage you to look in partner communities for their endorsed or trusted users.