SAFE TRADING GUIDE: HOW TO AVOID GETTING SCAMMED PROLOGUE: I am a veteran trader that has been scammed many different ways as I was learning the tricks of the trade. Unfortunately to all new traders, scammers target them as easy prey and utilize their tricks and loopholes in the system to abuse and defraud people from their items. I only wish there was better protection for us out there but unfortunately you will find out that there is little to no protection once you have been defrauded. I have been working on this for a while and I have decided this forum is the place where I want to publish it as people here are friendly and care about the community they trade in. INDEX: PART 1 - How to set up your account for proper trade protection PART 2 - General proper trading practices / etiquette PART 3 - Understanding what is a scammer and what is a shark PART 4 - Standard trading practices to keep you safe PART 5 - Safe trading practice when trading for Paypal or anything that requires a non-traditional trade PART 6 - Understanding how to tell a reputable trader apart from a potential unmarked scammer PART 7 - The middleman scam PART 8 - The disappearing game / item scam PART 9 - Account Hijacking / Phishing sites PART 10 - The "Phone Call" Hijack / The "Lets Talk on Skype" Hijack PART 11 - Conclusion PART 1 HOW TO SET UP YOUR ACCOUNT FOR PROPER TRADE PROTECTION: There are some default steam options that need to be changed in order to make the trade safe. STEP 1: MAKING YOUR PROFILE AND INVENTORY AVAILABLE FOR OTHERS TO SEE (Yes, this IS important ) - Go to: www.steampowered.com - Click the Login Button and log yourself in. (If you do not see your name in the top right corner, you are NOT logged in) - Once you are logged in click the Drop down arrow next to your name at the top right corner and click "View Profile" button. - Once your profile loads, click the third tab labeled "Settings" - Set your Profile Status to Friends Only or Public (up to your discretion but public is pretty safe unless you have very private information on your profile) - Set your Inventory to Friends Only or Public (unless you are one of the most wealthiest traders in the community, just leave it public, but its up to your discretion, as this information is safe to display to others) STEP 2: BEING ABLE TO SEE PEOPLE'S URL ON THEIR PROFILE For this next step you need to have your steam application open. - Load steam from your computer (not the website, but the actual application) - Open your floating Chat Window - On the very top left corner click the dropdown menu and select "Settings" - Click on the tab labeled "Interface" - Towards the bottom one of the checkmark boxes is labeled "Display Steam URL address bar when available". MAKE SURE THIS IS CHECKED ON as by default this is set to OFF. - Click "OK" Your account is now safe and ready to begin trading. PART 2 GENERAL SAFE TRADING PRACTICES Although this is somewhat covered in the Steam tutorial and general warning bubbles, it is still not emphasized enough so I am going to regurgitate some of this here.- Be polite to traders Other traders like you are just here to enjoy their free time (even the career traders) so please keep the community clean and polite. Many traders come from different countries / cultures / ages / etiquettes / maturity / traditions and skill levels. Please remember to keep that in mind when you engage in trade / trade negotiations with someone. - Be patient Sometimes you find yourself on a good role or have many trades to attend to. This does not mean you need to hurry or pressure another trader. Perhaps they are debating on weather they want to make the trade or perhaps they are busy like you and have 5 trade windows open. You don't know so let the flow go naturally. - Avoid racist/sexist comments Yes, we all make racist/sexist comments in the confines of our relaxed environment and friends but remember that you are talking to a complete stranges 9 out of the 100 times you are trading. Please remember to keep those jokes to yourself. "✿✿✿✿✿✿", "Jew", "biatch", "kiwi", "f✿✿", "noob" and many other commonly thrown around terms are actually QUITE offensive and should be completely unacceptable when communicating with others. If you are trading with someone, there is no need to upset them for no reason even though you might not mean anything by it or you use it commonly in your speech amongst your friends. - We all were "noobs" at one time or another Yes we all started off at one point or another completely clueless so please do not get impatient or get frustrated when someone doesn't follow expected community "norm"s or expected etiquette. If someone adds you and offers you something without you posting for it, simply explain the proper etiquette and decline politely. Those 30 seconds of help you provide would have been GOLDEN to help us when we were starting off. I'm sure most of us have done it or are doing it even now. It's not proper and impolite. If you have something to trade, offer it in the general chat window or via your microphone. Don't add random people and ask if they want your stuff. - Don't randomly add people and ask them if they want your items It is considered quite rude and inappropriate to add people randomly on a trade server and start showcasing your goods. This is not a flea market, it is a community of traders. Just post what you want to sell or buy in the main chat window (don't worry we ALL read it, even what we missed!). You can also offer it over the microphone - Don't spam the chat I PROMISE you, ALL TRADERS READ THE CHAT WINDOW (even the stuff they missed) so please do not repeat spam the chat window. If you have many items to sell, it is preferred to list it all in one post. Don't worry if your post gets bumped quickly. All interested traders read EVEN the missed stuff. We are all there not to waste time so we don't miss your post. And don't forget, we remember what we read so don't think we need to be reminded every 5-10 seconds what it was you were selling. You may think it will help you to sell by ignoring this step but trust me, if you spam the chat window, even if it's interesting to us, you will simply annoy or upset us to the point of ignoring you and not wanting to trade with you. We all know that the item will be up for sale by a better more polite trader so we can easily choose to ignore your spamming methods. - Don't beg Don't beg. DON'T BEG. FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS DEAR TO YOU, DON'T BEG! You think that people that trade want to give free stuff away? If you think there are people who give free stuff, your chances of finding them are 100 times better on NON-TRADE servers. Trade servers are where people who VALUE the items you want for free, while gaming servers you might find a kind sole that doesnt care for the drops they receive every week. For traders, it is MONEY. Think about that notion for a while. If you follow these steps then your trading experience will be successful and enjoyable. PART 3 UNDERSTANDING WHAT IS A SCAMMER AND WHAT IS A SHARK A SCAMMER: Someone who is looking to take your items without your knowledge or by deceiving you to believe something they do not intend to commit to or fulfill. The scammer usually tries to falsify their intentions or "alter" something to make you believe you are trading with a trusted person when in fact you may not be. Their ultimate goal is to steal your items. A SHARK: Someone who is looking to take your items from in an unfair trade due to your lack of knowledge of the item's "worth" in the trading community. This can include rare, unusual, or new / misunderstood / un-priced items. Sharks, as far as I am concerned, are no better than scammers. Sharking is not illegal because it is up to the person who agrees to the trade to research what they are selling before putting it on the market. However, there is a more dangerous type of shark out there that actively seeks people who are come across rare items and have very little play time or experience in trade. There are tools sharks use to "hunt" these types of people down. These types of sharks need to be banned from the trading community as it is malicious intent to defraud someone of their item and should be considered scamming in every sense of the word. To help avoid sharks it is recommended that you do NOT take random friend / trade requests where someone promises you something for one of your items you did not advertise. Most likely they are a shark. Not all of these people are sharks, but 9 out of 10 times they will be. It can be something as simple as an unusual item, a rare or special leveled / crafted item. A bugged item, a discontinued item that just changed in price DRASTICALLY, or even a class specific item that changes in price drastically as well (vintage ultra rare and community effect items specifically). Just remember, you might have gotten something for free or for next to nothing, or Steam may have returned you an item to substitute a deleted/defrauded/lost item. Sometimes what you get back can be worth more than $1000-$2000 to the right trader! PART 4 STANDARD TRADING PRACTICES TO KEEP YOU SAFE - Slow down, and take your time When you are trading, always slow down and review the trade. Do not ever feel or get rushed into completing a trade. If someone doesn't have the time to let you review a trade then do not commit to the trade. - Craftable versus uncraftable When someone offers you weapons or hats, always always always check if you are getting a craftable or non-craftable version. Both have different prices. Craftable ones are worth more and are priced higher. Uncraftable ones are ones bought in the store and are worth less as they are desired less and have lower price. - The quick switch Never assume you are getting what you saw someone putting into the trade window when they first put it in. Wait until EVERYTHING is in the trade window and both parties clicked the "accept" check box. THEN review the items one by one and make sure you are getting what you bargained/agreed to. Sometimes people have multiples of the same item and drop a clean item only to swap it out with a dirty one last minute while you are busy dropping your items into the trade window. - Renamed items "Renamed items have quotation marks around their name" while original items do not. If someone is selling you an "Unusual Team Captain" then it is not really an Unusual Team Captain. It is simply something else renamed to that name. Same applies when you are buying low craft number items. Any item crafted which is under craft #100 will be named accordingly. So for example, the 24th crafted last breath will be named by valve: Last Breath Craft #24. Do not fall for this: "Last Breath Craft #24". The change is subtle, but notice the quotation marks. The quotation marks on the second one signify it has been altered. - Keep up to date on sudden price spikes Always research what you are selling. Some items can have a price change that happens almost instantly. For example, yesterday, the strange sniper rifle was selling for 1 ref, but due to changes in the game or sudden high demand, today it is selling for 2.33-2.66 ref. The spreadsheet is not kept fully up to date as fast as the prices change sometimes so take your time and see what others are selling it for before you decide to sell. When an item loses in value 1 rec it is subtle and can be attributed to slow value adjustments, but when something changes in value by 5 keys overnight, you are talking about a significant change in overall value! This sharp change is where sharks fester the most so when someone suddenly comes and offers you a rec more then you are asking for an item, question it and do your research. Don't let the shark take a bite out of your profit! PART 5 SAFE TRADING PRACTICE WHEN TRADING FOR PAYPAL OR ANYTHING THAT REQUIRES A NON-TRADITIONAL TRADE One of the strongest and best databases currently on the market is located at the link provided below: http://www.steamrep.com On this page you will find a bar 1/3 way down the page which should be used to check the status of the person you are trading with. It allows you to check someone's profile for any known statuses which you should be aware of. Always plug in their steam url which can be found on their profile page just above the main display, and below the menus. Copy that URL and post it into the link above and look for any warnings on the account. DO THIS EVERY TIME YOU TRADE FOR ANY TYPE OF NON-TRADITIONAL STEAM TRADE (A non-traditional Steam trade is one where both you and the other party can put the items in the trade into 1 single trade window and click accept and go on your ways). NEVER CLICK ANY LINKS PROVIDED DURING A TRADE AS SOME NEW SCRIPTS EXIST THAT HIJACK YOUR TRADE WINDOW AND SEND ALL YOUR ITEMS OVER WITHOUT YOUR CONTROL! Build a reputable rep thread for yourself. The more rep you have the more likely you are to deter scammers as they prefer to hunt down beginners, not veteran players. MOST veteran players have been scammed or have learned the scams that they are trying to do so they don't worry about it. A few "MYTHS" you should be aware of: - Middle men can NOT help protect you as far as Paypal trades are concerned, so anyone offering the use of middlemen is unaware or trying to scam you. - The other party offering to go FIRST will NOT protect you in ANY way. The most common Paypal scam happens hours if not days after you traded. So going first means nothing. - Anyone selling you game "keys" and not tradable copies has either gotten them from a key generator online from a pirate site or they are trying to scam you. Although there is potential that the key is legitimate, why take the risk? If you want to play the game, you can get a steam tradable copy VERY easily (and much more safely) for almost if not the same price as the "keys" are being sold for. - Putting special notes or sending the money in a "gifted" format does NOT protect you from Paypal fraud. AVOID AVOID AVOID being convinced this is safe. Paypal policies CLEARLY state that you have absolutely NO protection against selling digital good regardless of any evidence you attempt to collect and feel safe about (including messages of acknowledgement, screen captures of the transaction, trade history screen captures or the chat dialogues). The only way to trust someone not frauding you is to trade with reputable traders. The next section below will help you figure this out. PART 6 UNDERSTANDING HOW TO TELL A REPUTABLE TRADER FROM A POTENTIAL UNMARKED SCAMMER When you are in trade with someone you need to check their trade history. A few sites exist which help record people’s trade reputation. You can only trust sites that block the owner of the thread from erasing bad comments. This is important to understand as "steam wall", "tf2 outpost rep" and other rep threads can be manipulated. CURRENTLY the most trusted site seems to be SOURCEOP. I make it a good practice to ask for the trader's SourceOP rep thread. I am extremely cautious and hesitant to trust any other rep as it can be forged/manipulated quite easily to deceive you into believing their rep thread is clean. When looking at rep threads, there are multiple things to consider. Lengthy ones are not necessarily safe ones. Look for comments in the thread where they got paid first and sent items later. This is important to prove their honesty. Also look for many different users posting. 1 person posting 30 times is not a real reliable rep thread. 30 people posting once is much more reliable. Look at how old the rep thread is. Was it opened less than a month ago (Look at the top post and the date posted)? If it wasn't it can be a scammer preparing to pull a large scam and "building" a rep thread. ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS click the link in the thread and make sure it takes you to their steam profile page and it IS the person you are trading with. Biggest give-away. If there is an Add Friend button then you are dealing with an imposter and the person you are chatting with is NOT the owner of the rep thread. I CAN'T STOP EMPHASIZING THAT THE ABOVE STEP BE FOLLOWED THROUGH EVERY TIME! UPDATE: Please note that a new type of scam has fake sites such as: http://www.souceop.com/threads/user-name-rep-thread or www.source-op.com/threads/user-name-rep-thread As you can see the name of the site is IMPORTANT. Make SURE you are on: http://www.forums.sourceop.com/thread/user-name-rep-thread Do NOT be fooled by any other variation of the url. Some other "red flags" to look for when dealing with smart evolved scammers. When you click to view their profile look for someone with a "matured" account: - How many hours of game time do they have? Is someone trying to buy something worth a few buds and only has 100-500 hours of game time in less than 3 months since the account was opened? MOST LIKELY a rich person blowing money or a SCAMMER. You decide. - How many games do they have installed? If only 2-3 then they haven't really invested much money into their steam account and can easily "dump" the account (Look to make sure they are not all free to play games or indie bundle games either as those can be easily built to 20+ games for less than $5). - When was the steam account opened? Will someone who had a steam account open for 3-4 years likely be a scammer? I usually bet not and give them the benefit of the doubt as scammers don't plan scams for such a long time. PART 7 THE MIDDLEMAN SCAM Middlemen are a way of feeling comfortable to trade with new traders or people who do not have enough reputation. Generally they are used for non-standard steam trades such as buying game keys (DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS EVEN WITH A MIDDLEMAN, BE WARNED!) or Paypal transactions. Most common middleman scams are pulled off when someone offers to use a middleman of their choice to "hold" on to your items while you make a transaction happen. You need to check the MIDDLEMAN for credentials, imposter accounts etc. There is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WRONG with checking the credentials of the middle man and demanding proof of reliability. ALL middlemen will ALWAYS be GLAD to provide anything you want as proof. As soon as you get insulting comments such as "What, you don't trust me? I am very big in the community" or "I know this admin and that admin and they will vouch for me" are the pressure tactics of scammers. Middlemen have a certain professional etiquette to how they middleman and ALWAYS are available and patient to help with your verification processes. They are community trusted for their patience, not their bullying words. And most importantly, if you do not agree or have chosen the middleman yourself then you are not obligated to use the one they provide. YOU are the one that are giving away your items to a stranger. You need to be able to trust that stranger so make sure YOU approve of them, NOT the other party in the trade. If you have any doubts to the deal. CHECK AND CHECK AGAIN. Your intuition is often right. Trust it! PART 8 THE DISAPPEARING GAME / ITEM SCAM If you trade for a game or item via regular trading standards and it disappears from your inventory minutes, hours or days after your transaction, do not panic. Luckily for you Steam DOES protect your items from such scams. AS LONG AS YOU TRADED FOR A TRADEABLE COPY and the trade was a simultaneous trade (not you go first then me, or in parts). So rest assured, as slow as they are in responding to these types of scams, they DO protect you and WILL help you recover your lost / stolen goods. Here is what they will need: The Steam ID of the person you traded with (You can always open up your inventory page on steam and locate your trade history in the top right corner where it says "View Trade History". It will go as far back as needed to the date and time you traded with the person. Find that trade date time stamp and provide them that date and time stamp. They will be able to do the rest. PART 9 ACCOUNT HIJACKING / PHISHING SITES ACCOUNT HIJACKING I'll quickly explain what Hijacking is and point you to a great guide on hijacking that can be found here on steam for further details which I recommend you read as well. Hijacking is when someone find out enough information about you and contacts steam and force resets your password on you and ultimately ends up taking over your account. Once this is done they can trade off all your games / items and leave you literally flat broke. Worst more, if you have any money in your steam wallet, they can spend it on giftable items and then trade them off. I have seen everything from people who cleaned out entire accounts to some that simply hijacked to play a game you have installed in your inventory with no interest in your tradeable items. Although the second is a much less severe type it is rare. More often then not, they are after your items / money. You may or may not have heard that steam will refund / return your items to you if you get hijacked and think that it is nothing to worry about. BE WARNED: They will recover your account one time ONLY. EVER. PERIOD. NO EXCEPTIONS. Which means if you get hijacked and they recover your items, the next time you're hijacked you are out on your own and will NOT have your items restored. Any damage that will occur will be on your shoulders. The guide listed below shows how to protect your account from hijacking as well as a step by step instruction on what you need to do to get your account recovered. Please read it once you are done with this guide as I found it to be the most informative and helpful guide on the topic. Hijacking and how to stop / reverse it Guide:http://forums.steamrep.com/threads/hijacking-prevention-solutions.3024/ Now that we covered that topic let's talk about the latest scams going around in this topic area. PHISING SITES What is Phishing? It is a method of contacting people in masses and trying to get them to hand out their username and password unknowingly. The scammer basically fools you into believing you are logging into steam or a steam trusted site and when you enter your username and password in the requested fields they are actually logging that information into their own database and then using it to log into your account and locking you out or steam your inventory / steam wallet items. The most common method is where they offer a free item / game giveaway via a contest or survey. They will point you to the site where you can pick which game / item you wish to win / earn via survey and once you go through the steps they ask you to log into your steam account. Most site we frequent including this one and many other community sites require a steam login. They forward you to steam's login page and get you to give them access to keep you logged in so they can utilize your inventory (for trading purposes etc) which is perfectly fine as long as you are on a trusted site. The worst part is they will make the phishing site look EXACTLY like the site you want to visit only it is not the site you want to be on. So how do you know you are on a trusted site? It's sort of hard to explain but here are some examples of how they deceive people: The Multiple Dot URL LEGITIMATE SITE: http://www.steamrep.com (*******.WEBSITE.COM) To know you are on a legitimate site such as steamrep look for the name RIGHT before the .com to be the site you want spelled exactly how it should. So anything such as www.steamrep.com or forums.steamrep.com is acceptable. The first section is called a subforum and it is a division of the site. It allows the owners of the site to seperate the site into sections. In steamrep's example the www.steamrep.com points to the scam search database while the forums.steamrep.com points to the forum section where this guide and all other chatter occur. Note that in both instances the ***.steamrep.com always ends with "steamrep.com" and nothing else. Below is what a phishing site would do. PHISHING URL: http://steamrep.steam-reps.com <- NOTE that steam-rep.com comes AFTER the steamrep section. What you are actually doing here is visiting the subforum steamrep on a site called steam-reps.com The Altered Name URL LEGITIMATE SITE: http://steamrep.com (The www. can be ommited and you will still be taken to the right site) Many people do not use the WWW in the name and hence end up going to a website anyways. Most websites when they get such a URL request they assume you meant to put in the www. and will forward you to the site. This can be exploited to mix you up and take you to the wrong site. Example shown below: PHISHING URL: http://www-steamrep.com <- NOTE that you are visiting a site called www-steamrep not steamrep. the "-" instead of the "." is not a seperator but just part of the name. What ends up happening here is that your browser takes you to a site: www.www-steamrep.com without asking you if that is what you meant. And next thing you know you are on the wrong site entering your sensitive information to the wrong people. The Assumed Name URL LEGITIMATE SITE: http://forums.steamrep.com (you are attempting to get to the forums directly on steamrep) This link takes you to the forums subsection of steamrep and you read on the latest scammers / appeals and general community warnings / updates. But reading a link does not mean you are on the right site. Example below: PHISHING URL: http://steamrepforumsite.com <- NOTE that you are not visiting steamrep forum site but a website named steamrepforumsite.com to make you think you are in the right place. Just remember, going to phishing sites is something you can do accidentally. It happens but do NOT enter your username password unless you trust the site. If you are being directed to your steam login page ALWAYS look for this EXACT url (I mean, EXACT): https://steamcommunity.com/ (whatever follows after that is irrelevant). If you see ANYTHING, even a weird sized dot or a space in the name then it is a phishing site. There are many "dots" in the world. Here are a few (note the first is the real one and all the rest are alternate characters and therefore alternate sites): . ■ ∙ ¸ ˛ ̦ ▪ As you can see, some are VERY VERY VERY similar to the real deal. Also, valve's secure logo (the green trusted logo next to the url) should read exactly as follows: Valve Corporation [US]. The Assumed link is where you're going URL LEGITIMATE SITE: http://www.steamrep.com <- if you hold the mouse over you will see that the link bubble matches the address shown PHSHING URL: http://www.steamrep.com <- if you hold the mouse over you will see that the link bubble points you to http://www.steamrepscamsite.com (NOT where you wanna go) PART 10 THE "STEAM PHONE CALL" HIJACK / THE "LETS TALK ON SKYPE" HIJACK THE "STEAM PHONE CALL" HIJACK I am not going to explain exactly how this works because I do not want to teach people how to hijack but I WILL explain what it does and leave it at that. If someone is trade chatting you and they send you a "phone call" through the steam client DO NOT ANSWER THE CALL. I mean, DO NOT even click a button. let it ring out. This is important because once you initiate a "phone call" that person gets a very important piece on information about your internet IP Address (your unique ID on the internet which pinpoints your physical address via your internet service provider and what help you connect to the outside world). A professional hacker (or a knowledged scammer who can get their hands on the right tools) can AND WILL find a way to hack into your computer from there. The next simple step would be to log your keys or run a spyware that will get your most vital information. We are not just talking about Steam anymore. We are talking your entire life and info stored and accessed via your computer. How to avoid this? Simple. DO NOT ANSWER THE CALL unless it is someone you know in real life or someone you don't mind sharing your full contact information with (remember what I pointed out in the first paragraph of this section). In fact, I make it a practice to usually confront ANYONE who tried to phone call me. Furthermore I become EXTREMELY cautious of ANYONE who wants to trade me via paypal and "accidentally" send a phone call. This perspon will now know my paypal email address as well as my IP (even if I have proper preventative firewalls installed on my computer connection, which at least 9/10 people do NOT since they are using older encryption methods that are easily hackable) which makes me very uncomfortable because with the right approach they can get steam to reset my password just with those 2 pieces of info. THE "LETS TALK ON SKYPE" HIJACK Same as the above only with Skype it sounds more innocent but the goal is the same. READ ABOVE for full details of how the scam works. In the SKYPE chat, they get your info WITHOUT having to trade Paypal because they get your email address from the SKYPE account. Also, SKYPE has many loopholes for back doors into your computer. PART 11 CONCLUSION Hope this guide is helpful and I hope you took the time to read it through. I wrote this to protect YOU so please be patient and read through it. It may save you hundreds of dollars and many hour of grief over lost / stolen items. UPDATE NOTE on PayPal Trading: Please note that Paypal is starting to take actions on non-tangible goods purchases (particularly virtual goods!) and is taking the matter a lot more seriously rather then just declining all chargebacks. At this time it is not known just how far they are willing to investigate a matter but it seems they are now starting to decline paypal chargebacks with enough evidence provided. As a result, it is HIGHLY recommended you FIRST get someone tagged and confirmed a scammer by filing a report on steamrep before disputing ANY chargeback cases with Paypal. Providing a link that the person is a branded "Scammer" actually helps in chargeback disputes with Paypal! However, people can quite easily do credit card company chargebacks which are still hard to win. It is still advisable to continue using the gifted option when asking for payments. This will help reduce the risks of delays and multiple times of having to dispute in order to keep your funds (once with paypal and then a second time when paypal gets a credit card chargeback and re-holds your funds). Using the gifted option eliminates the possibility of them doing a reversal with paypal (they can dispute that their account was hijacked or used without authorization but if you provide all necessary evidence and proof of trading, they are now starting to decline these hijacked unauthorized account use cases as was done recently in a very large scam attempt). PERSONAL NOTE ON THE MATTER: This is a great advancement for the trading community. I will keep you posted on their policies and what they are doing to fight this. Once the credit card companies realize there are more and more online non-tangible goods sales ocurring, I hope they will smarten up as well and result in our community being better protected from scammers.