Saturday, June 24, 2006

Scam Alert: 'Game Tester' Scam

Scam Alert!

'Game Tester' Scam
Affects: A target resident, someone either trying to help, or wanting to earn money.
Modus Operandi
: Scammer makes an offer to the victim of making some cash ( reports suggest a fair number from 1500L to 2500L or more.) to help them 'test' a new casino game (or games). In some cases this may occur at a sandbox or in a casino. To make the scam look more legit they may have the victim fill out a survey notecard. Once the victim agrees, the scam begins.
How it goes down: The victim is TPed to the scammers location, or if the scammer is already at that location. At this point they give the victim an object. Presumably the game to be tested and request that the victim rez the object to begin testing. As the object is rezed it asks for debit permission from the victim. Once permission is granted, the 'testing' begins. The actually events after this point vary from the victim losing all of their L$ at once, or having it progressively drained by higher and higher betting from the scammer, who always wins at the rigged game. Once they have completely drained the victim they leave, and refuse to refund the money. Recent reports suggest that the scammers may use an alt as an 'innocent bystander' to add an air of further legitimacy to the scam.
Seeing through the Scam: This is actually quite an old scam, but it crops up from time to time. The rule of thumb here is DO NOT give debit permissions to any object that you don't implicitly trust the creator of. Especially not to something someone just gave you. Programmers can test their own stuff out with alts, they don't need you.
Damage control: If you do still want to 'help' as it were, there is a few tricks you can use to minimize damage. First, get your testing money up front. Second after that, put ALL your L$ for sale using the lindex at 1L:1$ USD. This removes it from your av's account and locks it safely away. You can also transfer it to an alt, or put it in a 'bank' of some kind. Just make sure your av is dead broke, having only maybe a few L for the 'testing' purposes. That way the scammer cannot take more than a couple of L, and since he already paid you, you'll walk away a richer av. However, more than likely the scammer will refuse upfront payment. INSIST. Do not do ANYTHING without getting at least half in advance. THEN transfer it out so he can't win it back. Once you are done with the scammer leaving in a frusterated huff, you can delete the object he gave you ( do so right away!) and any rezed copy of it, and then (and only then) transfer your money back or cancel your sell order to retrieve your L$.

Avatars known to use this scam
(( no info yet.))

Friday, June 23, 2006

Scam Alert: Slot prize scam

Scam Alert!

Slot Prize Scam
as reported by Tiberious Neruda

Affects: Small casino owners, casino patrons
Modus Operandi
: Scammer makes a free 'Wheel of SPIN' available to small casino owners. A player who wins a prize, instead of losing or winning money, is given a slot machine. this passes the 'blame' to the Casino Owner
How it goes down: The 'winner' sees an opportunity to make some money, and places the machine on their own land or other location. Machine then messages creator, who can come by and win at will, potentially draining the victim's account.
Seeing through the Scam: This one, thankfully, is limited to one occurrence that I know of, but is pretty nefarious. It uses a script that wasn't CREATED by the scam artist, but rather modified by him. Thus, he isn't immediately messaged about it; the original creator is. Using a different script to get a name from the key used, however, reveals the true scammer.
( Note from Myst: There are other scams like this involving the use of tip jars, and other free casino games, even other 'free' objects that scammers ask unsuspecting victims to 'help them test'. If someone asks you to 'test a game' for them, HIDE YOUR CASH. Either shift it to an alt account, or place a Sell order on the Lindex for 1L:1$ USD, do the testing, then cancel the order and get your money back.)
Damage control: This one has been reported to the Lindens, and is under investigation. However, if you have a 'Furture Slot (prize)' (not confirmed spelling) object, DO NOT rez it. If you have one in-world, remove it immediately.

Tiberious' anti-scam tip of the day:
Always examine objects that request debit permissions, and if possible, view the scripts, and try to get an understanding of where money will go. If you see a suspicious llGiveMoney call, or if you can't view the script, someone has something to hide, and you shouldn't use it.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Buyer Beware: Yard sales

It happens. We collect junk we don't want or don't need in our inventory and the stuff we can transfer, we figure hey, we'll sell it at a yard sale! And from a newbie or overall consumer mind set the Yardsale concept is one that invokes the idea of bargans, cheap goods, and possible deals.

And while all of this is well and good, the problem is that in Secondlife, a yardsale isn't always a yardsale, and a yardsale isn't always a deal. And as innocent as it may sound on the initial outset, Yardsales can be quickly overwhelming. What seems like a good deal, may, infact, be a total ripoff.

The forums have been abuzz with the dangers and shady nature of yardsales for some time. I myself don't generally go to yard sales, as I tend to prefer to go to the source of an item, namely a designer I know and trust. Failing that, I tend to make things myself. But yardsales can be a source of discontinued items, items from designers long gone from secondlife, or nifty tidbits from designers in world you never knew about. Also, if you are on a severely limited budget, you can find some cheap stuff. HOWEVER, that being said, its still a major case of "Buyer beware".

Since I decided to write this article, I decided to go on a bit of a yardsale shopping spree, armed with the knowlege of a year plus in secondlife and no stranger to its many features or the dangers of being ripped off. I pulled up the find menu and looked up events. As usual, there was a nice plethora of yardsales being listed. I picked the first one and popped into it.

I was swiftly overwhelmed with a veritable junkyard in the sky.. and some guy landing on my head. Moving along, I proceeded to browse the offerings.

At this particular yardsale there was no host despite being listed as an event, but it was quite busy. There were many boxes of freebees ( they said free hair, free shirts, free eyes, etc over them) that were there for 1L. I disagree with calling 'freebees' freebees if you charge ANYTHING for them, but I also know its common practice to charge 1L for a box for the effort of boxing them up and hosting them. Okay, so fair deal. I even lent another fellow shopper a dollar to get one of these boxes. One thing to note would be to check the box's contents BEFORE you pay for it. I then started examining all the boxes. Hmm. Some of the freebees were listed for 10L. I found an object that was originally Linden made for 50L. Hmm. I'm pretty sure that those Linden objects were free from info/telehubs at one point. My ripoff sense is tingling. At this particular yardsale there was a rather cool looking motorcycle for 300L, so I decide to check up on the designer. I got the name and looked the resident up. Said he had a shop in his Picks in his profile. So, like any good, red blooded consumer, I decided to do a price comparison. I teleported to his shop to find... It wasn't there!

Well crud. This means one of two things. Either the designer is no longer selling in SL and this motorcycle could be a collectors item, or the guy moved and failed to update his profile. Hmm. Well it looks like if I want the bike, the yardsale would be a good place to get it since the store no longer exists. But if I hadn't checked, I wouldn't have known. A good shopper is a smart shopper! Do your homework before you pay your money!

Okay after this point I started visiting some other yard sales. Discovered this first yard sale had several listings. Annoying to be always popping back at the same yardsale. Finally I manged to get to another one, where I appeared in the air, fell for several feet and landed on a shack. I looked around, a bit confused. In the distance a short ways was an obvious retail store. But someone said their was a yard sale here! I look around some more and then I realize.. the STORE is the yardsale. Okay, what gives?

So I truck over to the shop in question and check it out. Yep. They are a store. Yep, this is a retail establishment. But they have a section with a bunch of feebees in boxes on a blanket. Hmm. this smells a bit fishy. The freebees in this case are actual freebees. They cost nothing, 0L for the box. But of course, the source is infinate and I suspect this was a ploy to get yardsalers into the retail establishment. Although, despite my being duped, I found a SWEET electric chair. But I didn't buy it on the principle of being duped to a store with false advertising. Bad business people! Don't dupe your customers.

Next yardsale I visit is on a private island. I appear in the middle of a beachlike paradise. I look around. No yardsale. Notice a direction marker in the distance. Truck over. Once again, I've been duped. Its looks kind of like ikea, but on a beach and super disorganized. But its obviously, once again, a retail senario. I'm sensing a theme here.

I pop by a fourth one. This one appears to actually be a yardsale. The items are not retail, and they are obviously from different designers. Some are freebees, some aren't. Most are very reasonably priced. I find some clothing by a designer I've never heard of, but his clothes are pretty cool. I decide to check his store before I buy the clothing. When I arrive, I find his store. He's got some cool stuff, but none of the clothing I saw previously. Looks like he doesn't sell it anymore. So there was a potentially good deal there. I also saw he had some freebees for 1L and helped myself to samples.

So there you have it in a nutshell, so lets review what we learned.

1) Yardsales may have deals, but they also have ripoffs.
To avoid the ripoffs, make sure you check who the original creator was. You can do this by using the 'rating' trick. Right click on the item to bring up the pie menu. Select More..., from the More.. menu select Rate. From the Rate menu select 'Creator'. This will tell you who the creator is. You can then use the Find to look up that individual.

2) Do not pay more than 1L for a pack of freebees.
Freebees are called 'free' for a reason. Namely, you shouldn't have to pay for them. 1L$ is considered acceptable, but IMO, they should be called 'cheapies' not 'freebees'. Another thing to note is that anything created by a Linden, is *usually* free and you shouldn't pay for it. Go to info hubs, you can probably pick it or something like it up for nothing.

3) If you find something you like, you should comparison shop.
After you discover a cool item, landmark the yardsale, find out who the designer was, and go pay the designer's store a visit. Check for the same item and compare the price of the original designer to the yardsale. You might be surprised to learn that the original designer is often cheaper, and then you have the guaruntee of the original creator for the product. If you buy it at a yardsale the original creator owes you nothing if its broken, out of date, or missing something.
If a designer is no longer in game, or not selling that item any more, you can either message them ( if they are still in game) or you can assume the item at the yardsale is a deal. However, always check to make sure that the item wasn't released as freebee from the designer if possible and the person is reselling it.

4) The 'yardsale' is often a marketting ploy from the find menu. While the merchant may offer some freebees or deals, it is not really a yardsale at all. Be aware of this. Also, people can't seem to landmark their yardsales well, and sometimes you have to hunt a bit to find it.

As to what LL could do to help with this problem, well, I think there are a few things.

1) Improve the events listing so that the times cycle off as the event is completed. This prevents several alts from listing the same yard sale for several hours in a row. I also feel Yardsales should have their own category.

2) The ability to more easily view the original creator, as opposed to just the owner in the hover text. This would quickly and easily allow new people to identify actual yardsale items.

3) Better policing/control of the events listing.

Please share your yardsale experiences and tips with this post.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Scam Alert: Magic Money Scam

Scam Alert!

'Magic Money' Scam
( this is an older scam, but is seeing renewed activity.)
Affects: Newbies and the unwary, merchants, moneytree owners
Modus Operandi
: The scammer rezes an object that looks like a $ sign near a known money tree, or in a store (or anywhere really, usually a popular loction) that has the following text above it (or something like it):
" Make up to L$900 or more! Passive Income! Its fast easy and fun! Was L$1000! Now only L$100! Right click and chose "pay..." To get started right away!"
There is a photo of the object here They then leave it there to collect money of the unwary.
How it goes down: A newbie or broke individual visits the moneytree or location in question. Seeing the promise of easy money they click and pay the $ shaped object. They are then releaved of whatever money they do have and get nothing in return.
Seeing through the Scam: This is a pretty cut and dried pyramid type scam, tricking the unwary into paying money for nothing. There are some sayings in RL that apply to SL as well, and one of them is "Beware of free money, especially if you have to pay for it up front." The logic of course being, that if you have to pay for it, it wasn't really free now was it? The best thing to do is avoid paying into items that promise 'easy money'. They are preying on greed and desperation for an income without work.
Damage control: There is a product on the market in SL to help with this problem. It is called "The Magic Money Glove" by Adriana Caligari. Land owners can use this to 'glove' or cover the magic money object as soon as it is rezed on their land. It also garbles the text that floats above it.
You can have a look at it at it on SLexchange.

People with moneytrees and other newbie aids should be the most wary of this particular scam as it seems to affect those type of areas the most. I believe this is generally because only the new or really unwary would fall for this particular scam.

Remember, if you have to pay for it, its not a free ride.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

New group in SL - Join it!

I've created a new group for those of you who are merchants or shoppers who support this initiative to educate, infoshare, teach, and promote better business practices. The name is Caveat Emptor Association, and its free to join, just look it up in the find, or if you can't find it, IM Myst Panther in world for an invite.

The group will be primarily used to facilitate discussion groups, pass out warnings about scams, as well as provide a knowlegeable group of individuals to help support new business people by answering questions and providing some basic knowlege and direction that a new business person may not otherwise get.

Scam Alert: Invisible prim over vendor (now with fastpay!)

Scam Alert!

Invisible Prim over Vendor (Now with Fastpay!)
Affects: Consumer and Merchants
Modus Operandi
: Scammer places invisible prims overtop of legitimate vendors. When customer clicks on vendor to pay, they actually be clicking the invisible prim and paying THAT not the vendor. Customer pays their money, but doesn't get their item and is now out money and often can't figure out why. They may end up paying the invisible prim trying to pay the vendor a few times thinking it didn't work. Then when the designer gets an angry message demanding the product the customer payed for and a refund for the extra cash, they won't even know what happened because they never got paid. And the scammer laughs all the way to the bank.
How it goes down: The scammer shows up at a larger location, typically a mall or large main store. They place invisible scripted prims over top of the screen or main part of the vendor. The casual shopper obviously cannot see the invisible prim covering the vendor, and thus is generally unaware of its existance. They then leave and let the prims do the dirty deed of collecting transactions. This is an old scam, but has been updated to include a 'fastpay' function and has seen some renewed activity.
Seeing through the Scam (Consumer):
In the Secondlife Menu, there is an option to 'Highlight Transparent'. Before you decide to pay a vendor, click that on for a second and make sure there is nothing transparent sitting overtop of the vendor you want to pay. Also, if you've got the mouse tips on, you can 'hover' your mouse point over an object and it will tell you the object's name and owner. Make sure when you hover it over the middle panel of the vendor ( where the picture is) that the owner corresponds to the name of the designer. I do both. Remember, its good to be paranoid.
Damage control: If you pay a vendor and nothing comes out. DON'T pay it again. Especially for expensive purchases like Skins. Mail the creator and let him or her know that the vendor isn't working properly and ask if they received the payment you made.

Seeing through the Scam (Merchant):
Mall owners especially should be vigilant for this one. If you do not know every single vendor in your mall ( I make a point to meet each new vendor and speak with them.) make sure you've got your group for land and vendors properly set up and enable auto return to make sure that any prims that aren't supposed to be there get taken out of there, pronto. This also keeps your prim count down and can keep some forms of greifing lower. For merchants with individual stores, be sure to check your land regularly for stray prims or enable auto return to prevent the unwanted prims from being there. You can also set your land to no rez, but that can annoy customers who want to try stuff on/out right away. Since this is a passive scam, its a little easier to combat, but make sure you, or someone you trust checks your land regularly for stray prims and get rid of them.

Avatars known to use this scam:
(( No information yet, if you have some, leave a comment!))

Scam Alert : Management Scam

Here is my first scam report. What is a scam report? good question.

Basically its a sort of 'heads up' for all merchants and buyers to let you know of people, practices, or particular techniques that unscrupulous people are using to seperate you from your hard earned L$ or scam you out of L$ that are rightfully deserved. By being aware of these scams and how to avoid them/prevent them/be vigilant against them, you can take action to protect yourself against them. Also, unlike LL, we can name names here, thus, we will post lists of known scammers who use a particular scam.

Scam Alert!

'Special Sale' or 'Management' Scam
Consumer and Merchants
Modus Operandi
: A scammer poses as an employee, manager, or representative of a reputable or popular designer/store and is offering a 'special sale' or 'special discount' of the designer's products. They are usually actually in one of the stores being targetted and talk to the customers in the store (the victims).
How it goes down: The scammer will try to act on people's want for a sale or discount, usually preying on new residents, or even some of the more ignorant or careless older ones. They will generally leave the store or teleport the victim to another location to perpetuate the scam. They will rez a box, or other item often carefully constructed with ripped textures to make it seem legit. Inside the box will be nothing, or crap, sometimes even carefully renamed to resemble the naming schemes of the emulated designer. They will either request payment directly to them through their profile, or sometimes they will use a vendor.
Seeing through the Scam (Consumer): The creative ones are harder to see through than the halfass ones,but there are a few ways to see through this one.

1) The technical way: check the properties on an object before you pay it. If you look on the object's properties (left click the object, select edit, look at the first tab, look for creator), you'll see that there is a field that says "Creator". This is the person that made the object. Even if a person owns an object made by another resident, the creator never changes. Thus, if an object is legit, it will have the creator set as the designer you want to buy from. In this scam, the object presented will mostly likely have the scammer's name as the creator despite how it looks. Remember, anyone can take a snapshot. Forgeries have been around since the beginning of time. As a buyer, you have to make sure you check for legitimacy BEFORE you hand over the cash. If the product is genuinely from the designer, it will ALWAYS have the designer's name as the creator.

2) The intuitive way: Most shoppers need to develop a sort of 'spider sense' of shopping. Mainly, observing behavior that seems 'odd'. As a rule, MOST stores don't have staff. There is only one owner, and that is the Designer themselves. If there is legitimate staff, they will NOT offer sales or deals themselves. They will answer questions, point you to the products you are looking for, or model merchandise so you can see it on someone. They DO NOT offer discounts on behalf of the designer. If you see someone doing this, the little bells of "WRONG" should go off in your shopper's brain. Do not pay these people directly, no matter how legit they sound. All the reputable designers have vendors and stores for a reason. They do not get their money from a third party resident. Whenever in doubt to the legitimacy of a representative, message the designer directly and wait until they reply before opening your wallet. Remember, YOU are in control here. Be very suspicious of people bearing 'deals'.

3) The paranoid way: Its good to be paranoid. In this case, make sure you understand who the business owner/designer is. Pay only objects that you have verified belongs (is owned under the creative field) to that individual, and never pay a third party directly through profile for something made by someone else.

Preventing the Scam (Merchants): Being that most of us have real lives and can't be online all the time, there isn't a lot of options that are practical. If you are a larger retailer, it might make sense to 'hire' a legit staff of trusted friends that can mind the store and keep an eye out for any suspicious characters. If you feel comfortable, you can even give them the power to eject these individuals from your stores. However, remember, if they are targetting one location, they are probably targetting more of your locations, not just your main store. If you have a lot, this can become a costly option to pay so much staff. The second thing you can do is raise awareness and your profile of who you are, and that you have no staff. A good practice is to create a group for customers of your business to subscribe to for updates and new product announcements, but you can also notify your customers if scammers are targetting your store. Remind your customers that you do not have representatives and tell them how to recognize your official sales. You can also put a large sign in your store to this effect, and perhaps link them back here, or let it give a notecard about the scams when you touch the sign. Education of customers is important. They will thank you in the long run.

Avatars known to use this scam:
Rain Riel
Batista Plasma
Graffiti Dye

Possible affiliates of this scam:
Twilight Takakura
creamy raine
CandieRaine Paperdoll

If your store has been affected by this scam, please post here to let people know to watch for them in your store, and inform you or other customers about the scam. If we watch out for each other, we can help deter this behavior.

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Lets get the who, what, when, where and why out of the way first.

Who am I?
I am a resident, shopper, and merchant of Secondlife. If you don't know what secondlife is, check out and tell them Myst Panther sent ya. If you do know about secondlife, here's some info about me.
I've been on Secondlife for a little over a year now. I own a small shop and mall, but I am friends with some people who own larger businesses and we colaborate from time to time. As a mall owner, I am also a land owner. I am a shopper who loves to explore the creativity of others. Like any good shopper, I love a good deal. Its taken me a fair amount of time to determine what a good deal is, and each market has its own sort of ebb and flow.

What is this?
This is a blog that will discuss a number of topics relating to business in secondlife, from shopping to selling, covering both perspectives from the buyer and the seller. I'm interested in informing people of both the good, and the bad of doing business in SL and the realities of business in this virtual world. The title of this journal is Latin, meaning " Let the buyer beware". Particularly in instances where there is a limited control or limited to no warrenties on the purchase. This describes the 'market' of secondlife very accurately.

When will I be posting?
Whenever I get the chance and have something reasonably intelligent to say. Also, I hope that people will eventually help me out by writing me with their experiences (good and bad), scam alerts, tips, tricks, experiences, etc.

Here of course. I'm not sure If I will post this anywhere else, but hopefully I'll be able to condense this information into some kind of handout for noobs.

Why are you doing this?
The main reason? There seems to be a need for a calm, impartial voice that can explain simply and easily, without bias some of the issues surrounding buying and selling in secondlife. I also think that through some of my real world experiences in the world of retail, customer service, marketing, branding, copyright, etc, that I can provide insights that others who haven't had my experience may lack. There is also a rising threat of scams, ripoff artists, copycats, and other unpleasentness that is difficult to find information on and get information on. Hopefully I can collect this information in one, easy to read place. That way, both merchants and buyers can check out this blog to check for information on new scams and prevent these people from taking away their hard work and rightful sales. Secondlife is a virtual wildwest in terms of business, and we, as business owners cannot take it for granted that Linden Labs is going to babysit us. We are (supposed to be) all adults here. We need to act like adults. The first step to that is to stand up and take responsibility for the community, both the merchants and shoppers.

What do I hope to accomplish?
Mostly, raising awareness and brining merchants and shoppers together on the same page. I've seen the aspects of both big and small businesses, new and older businesses, and the frusteration of when the two sides are clashing because neither really knows what to expect from the other. SL creates a unique sort of experience in which we can pretend to be that which we are not IRL, and perhaps wouldn't do IRL as a living. Merchants who create in SL, many do not have years in customer services, know how to make retail policy or have any business management or business communications training. Yet the consumer, who's expectations in the game are built on what they have known IRL in terms of customer service, still assume individual merchants are going to behave like Walmart. This is not the case. Also I hope this will serve as a resource for merchants and consumers alike to keep abreast of the latest and most common scams, so that both can protect themselves from being ripped off.

In the world of Secondlife, Caveat Emptor should be your shopping motto. Everyone is out to get your L$.

Let's talk about it.