Thursday, July 20, 2006

Buyer Beware: Interview with a con artist

Most of us who have been in SL even a short while are aware of the scams that involve people leaving an object somewhere to catch us unaware into paying into it. From invisible prims over vendors, to objects promising big returns, to rigged casino or camping equipment the MO is always basically the same. Make an object, wait for some sap to use it, cash in.

But what about the old fashioned strait up con? When its not a passive object, but an avatar actively soliciting with a silver tongue?

In more recent times we've seen a little more of this sort of activity. The latest being the 'store management' scam where an avatar was actively in a well known designer's store and soliciting that they had 'deals' on the afore mentioned designers stuff. These guys were pretty braisen, but were reasonably easily caught. However, the fellow I met the other night, was a bit of an eye opener even to me.

I was exploring the new sim, Nakama, which has this funky anime neo-tokyo kind of vibe ( and I'm a sucker for it). It happened that I ran into this fellow. He was in a tux with a red carnation, and a pair of nerdy glasses. His overall appearance screamed 'geek at a wedding'. But thats neither here nor there. He complimented me on my avatar and quite unexpectedly got into a conversation. I'd actually seen this guy before in the Crimson Falls sim, but didn't really talk to him then. It was through the course of this coversation I learned he was a conman. And not only that, he was a genuinely intelligent, silvertongued one too. It was clear to me, this guy knew what he was doing.

He spoke of his victims as 'marks'. His prey was newbies. He knew well that oldbies, despite having more money are a lot harder to fool. By preying on newbies, he is relying on their naieve newness to avoid getting caught. He himself has been around on SL, doing this for quite some time, over a year if memory serves. But with alts, naming names in this case is useless. He would simply change. Its the con thats important here.

He performed his con several times while I was present, although he would always go out of earshot for the actual act itself. But it would always start with " want to make some money?" or something along those lines, and the avatar approched was always less than a few weeks old. When I asked later what he said, he told me it was a "trade secret" and suggested that he was a con man IRL as well as SL. When I asked him what he got out of it, he said that generally he might get 10-50L, but he's gotten some people to pony up as much as 600L for 'male enhansement' if you will, or had his marks buy him other things. Exactly how or what he said is still unknown to me at this time. But given that he seems to get around, I'm sure that some of his 'marks' might be able to shed some light on this if they read this blog.

I think its safe advice to give in this case, that if someone is promising you easy/free money, that the 'scam-o-dar' in your brain should start ringing pretty loudly. Promising big returns for even a small investment, anything which gets you to put out money first, is suspicious activity. This fellow, unlike some others was EXTEMELY smooth. He seems very nice, very polite. But make no mistake, if he can he'll seperate you from your cash in a heartbeat.

Remember: Everyone is out to get your Lindens.


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