A Philosopher's Blog


Posted in Business, Video Games by Michael LaBossiere on February 18, 2011
The World Of Warcraft Launcher or Patcher

Image via Wikipedia

While online scammers tend to focus on tricking people into providing financial information (such as credit card and banking information) there is also a lucrative business in tricking people into handing over their World of Warcraft information.

Now, you might be wondering what scammers could get out of a Warcraft account. After all, it hardly seems worth the effort to get access to a game when the same effort could provide access to bank accounts. However, while a WoW account won’t yield the sort of payout that access to a bank account would yield, they can be a source of revenue.

As with any money-making enterprise, there is a shadow economy that has grown up around WoW and other such games. Part of this shadow economy involves selling in game gold for real money (which is often also a scam for getting credit card numbers). Another part of this economy involves selling characters and gear for real money. While some operations do actually employ people to “farm” for gold (the infamous “Chinese gold farmers”) and level characters, stealing an established account to plunder for items and gold is far more time efficient. One common tactic is to steal an account and then sell everything the characters have and, if the characters are in a guild, to raid the guild bank and sell everything there. This actually happened to my guild, which is why I use hardware authenticator with my account.

While I have been playing WoW since 2004, I received my first email WoW scam today. I assume it was either a random mailing or some bot culled my email from a post about WoW. As you can see from the text below, the scam was either written by using Google translate or maybe by a college student:

Congratulations! Your world of Warcraft account to receive compensation.This is Blizzard Entertainment’s apology, We acknowledge a mistake, for you to lose the World of Warcraft account in order to recover our losses, We will give you 50000 gold coins free of charge and rare mounts (Dark Phoenix), I hope you can restart the game

Login here to authentication, 48 hours you will receive compensation

Description: test account and permanently disabled can not compensation

It was rather easy to spot that this was a scam. After all, Blizzard doesn’t send these sort of emails nor does it ever send people gold or rare mounts to compensate for anything. As noted above, the writing style is also a dead give away. Naturally, the link was also clearly not a Blizzard site.

Presumably some people do fall for these scams-after all, 50000 gold coins and rare mounts are rather tempting to the ignorant. Of course, when I read it I had to laugh and my first thought was “seriously, is the best that you scammer assweasels can do?” They really need to step up their game-this current scam is just insulting and I demand a better quality scam.

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One Response

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  1. Asur said, on February 18, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    Back in the day, I was a noob. How nooby was I? Mike will probably understand: My main was a level 26 paladin wearing full chainmail — the white quality chain set you buy from normal vendors. I was very happy to have amassed the few gold pieces it takes to get it.

    Eventually, I tried to shake off my noob mantle by buying gold. That’s a noob move in and of itself, but it worked out well for me; it made the game easier and initiated my now self-supported powergaming ways.

    Although my credit card was never scammed as a result of this, my email address has made the scamming circuit because of it. Hence, unlike Mike, I’ve seen a lot of email scams.

    Which brings me to my point; some of them are very well done, so much so that the web addresses attached to them appear to be legitimate, and the linked login sites are perfect rips of the real battlenet and blizzard.com screens. I could easily see someone falling for these; the only reason I haven’t is that, like Mike, I know Blizzard doesn’t actually send out emails like this, or ask for the information that these people do.

    Oddly, the scam email has a more helpful sound than real Blizz communications: It apologizes, it asks for your assistance, it explains the ‘problem’ it’s trying to fix.

    Hence, if the email is polite and/or helpful, I know it can’t possibly be real: Blizzard never apologizes, never asks for your help in resolving an issue, never explains itself. If something actually happens that needs your attention, Blizzard’s way of telling you this is to simply freeze your account and let you spend an hour on the phone trying to figure out why.

    Thank you Blizzard, I love you too.

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