Tuesday, June 20, 2006

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!))


At 6:05 PM, June 20, 2006, Blogger Prokofy Neva said...

Salope Cave, born Jan. 2006 and now removed from the list, used an invisible prim called "rental box" lower-case letters created by Prescillia Shilton to place scam boxes over rentomatics in 4 of my communities for newbies. They began as tenants, and had the group tag, so their prims remained despite autoreturn. Prescillia remains in the list and denies knowledge of the scam, yet she created a box called "rental box" which has no rental script in it with days, refunds, etc. but merely "donations".

At 10:49 PM, June 20, 2006, Blogger Myst Panther said...

This is why its important for consumers to check for invisible objects before paying a vendor or rental, or to pay very careful attention to the hover box if they have it on. I think its a worthwhile note to land owners and those who rent to check regularly for such things over their rental units. Its a rather insidious scam, particularly in a situation as you describe because the person involved was once a member of the community.

At 10:57 PM, June 20, 2006, Blogger Torley said...

I hate this scam. It's affected some good friends of mine, as well as strangers-who-later-became-friends on the same note.

I wanna let you know internally, Lindens have been concerned about this too. We've got some improvements in the works, including showing WHO a Fast Pay dialog is paying--so if you're aware enough to read the name, at least you won't be suckered into paying the wrong person.

Hope this is released soon, esp. in the light of all the scams.

We've got good people who care very much, so that's why I'm posting here (having been scammed several times myself).

At 11:07 PM, June 20, 2006, Blogger Jakkal Dingo said...

Thanks for that note, Torley. I was going to suggest that LL tell people who they're paying. It might also help if we could put what they're paying for, but I'm guessing that would have to be done by scripters (And the unscrupulous would abuse that.)

At 7:40 PM, June 22, 2006, Blogger Prokofy Neva said...

Myst, what you're suggesting isn't practical. First of all, you have to balance making people hysterical with fear checking all the time, and forcing them to move out to higher-cost islands where they will pay on PayPal outside of SL completely, with being able to continue to offer lower-cost mainland rentals through rentomatic
with refundability, discount capacity, and messaging capacity. Obviously I'm going to favour the latter!

Few people are going to bother to figure out who owns the rento -- it's already an unfamiliar device and they rarely pay attention to the chat or the notecard that comes out of it despite efforts to get their attention. So all I can do is reassure everyone that if they are scammed, they will be compensated immediately and the rento fixed. I constantly check my lots, but with hundreds, it's not possible to be on them 24/7. Still, what's important is that I caught this scam early on and nuked it and banned the perpetrators -- only one person found they couldn't get a refund, because they were clicking on a blank box not the rento, and that was fixed.

You can't expect people with lots of units, or even only a sim of units, to be on them 24/7 in fear checking for scams. And we can't always put newbie areas on autoreturn because newbies go nuts with prims returning, they never understand what's up, even when you explain it 4 different ways for every center of the human consciousness, they still don't get it until they get it by having stuff return -- and usually what happens is they move out before then thinking they've done something wrong or there's a rip-off of another sort going on. That's what I'm keen to avoid.

It's already bad enough that people have invitation-only groups (which I refuse to have because I'm devoted to having ease of use and self-service, I don't want people to pay rent and then wait a day for me to appear and invite them to a group so they can set their prims, I want them to be able to join on their own).

The solution here doesn't involve more technology, more fear, more hysteria. I'm amazed at how fearful and then hortatory and entitlement-happy everyone has gotten over this although there are no real documented losses precisely because it was exposed quickly.

Rather, the solution involves the Lindens stepping up to the plate, which they are not doing.

Why? Because this theft scam I uncovered, well-documented, eminently checkable, abundantly reported, *did not lead to a police blotter report*. The person is gone from the list, but who knows what that's about. That's irrelevant.

What sends a message, what is effective, is when there is a police blotter, so that people who steal don't have a sense of impunity. All week, I've had to watch as stupid shooting incidents and indecency incidents which are the typical fodder of the police blotter pile up, and not see *a single police blotter related to the huge wave of griefing and scams going on -- not a single one*.

What's up with that? The idea that "fast pay" or any pay will have a name to it is useless. It's a technical solution in search of a non-existant substrate -- somebody who will be paying attention to an object owner, something 9/10 of players don't do, especially newbies.

What's needed instead of these endless ineffective technical fixes are POLICIES. Policies that do not involve coding, but involve speaking up with a large voice, getting on the forums, getting on the blue drop-downs, getting on the police blotter and saying: we prosecute scammers to the fullest extent of the law, see the police blotter.

Torley, I hope you care about this for more reasons than because your friends got scammed. This tears the social fabric and you should care about the overall social fabric.

There are droves of new people coming in constantly in waves. We can't expect to bombard them with scare stories. Indeed, there already are all kinds of urban legends that people help perpetrate in the newbie funnelling process, like "don't sell your first land you will be scammed by evil land barons blah blah."



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