Thursday, March 31, 2011

Escrow Scam

This is possibly the most clever scam out in the universe of eve for the amount of time it requires to set up.  I've seen someone pull in 10 billion isk in one weekend minus the cost of the stuff he was using.  The scam involves abusing the Margin Trading skill and finding items that are never traded.  It can be done with dog tags, overseer effects, etc.  You basically want something that literally has no market, and for our examples we will use a imaginary item just called DNA.

This DNA is absolutely worthless, but there is very little of it in the game.  The hard part of this scam involves getting between 3-5 of the scam item, but it can be done.  The person will then create a buy order asking for 3-5 (depends how many you are using for your scam) for a ridiculously  high amount.  This makes it look like the item is worth a lot of iskies, when it is worthless.  The scammer can get really creative and use multiple buy orders and even put some up for sale at the high price.  The goal is to make it look like the item is worth a LOT.

This is where margin trading comes into play.  The scammer will intentionally create one or two orders per character and then transfer the rest of the isk off the character.  This means that if anyone tries to sell to his buy order it will simply fail, and to prevent someone from messing up his scam he will have min volume set to 3-5.  This is to prevent someone with one of the item from canceling all his orders.

The actual scam takes place on the contract market.  The scammer will create a contract asking for a lot of isk for there worthless item, and spam the contract in local.  People will click on the contract and generally have no idea what the item is or what it is really worth.  They will then view market details and see that it is selling for hundreds of isk, and that by accepting the contract they can sell to the buy orders and turn a profit.  The problem is the buy orders will disappear as you sell to them and leave you with a worthless item.

I guess the tip of the day, all contracts in local are scams.  Stay away.


  1. Great guides on the blog mate your really doing a great job. It has really been easier sending my noobs in corp to read the blog instead of explaining everything.

  2. CCP needs to fix this the way real markets fix it. Margin trading does not need to be changed, but the player should have to put up collateral to cover failed deals.

    Here's how it would work. A player chooses to put up a buy order and have the option to put up the full escrow (the usual mechanic) or to use their margin trading skill to place an order with lower than the amount of the escrow. The game then requires that the player put up an item of sufficient collateral, perhaps a valuable ship. The player chooses the item, the system checks the average sale price of that item and chooses to accept or reject it based upon that. Then the ship (or whatever it is) gets stuck at the station contingent upon a successful sale.

    Then, when someone attempts to sell to the fraudulent buy order, the sale goes through and the collateral is immediately placed on the market to cover the balance. And, just like the government or bank will do with seized assets, the initial auction sale price is set substantially lower than the actual value of the item so that the auction proceeds quickly and the balance is paid back.

    This fixes the scam and also provides a sufficient disincentive to using margin trading incorrectly. It is risky in real life (people have real assets that can be seized and sold at auction) and should be risky in Eve as well. The other upside is that occasionally quite cheap goods will enter the market to be purchased by other players when someone does financially idiotic things. Everyone wins.

    1. Why??? I don't understand why it needs to be fixed??

      When I call in to a Pizza Place and order takeout, they don't take my credit card and demand payment even if I don't show up! When I don't show up, I don't get the pizza, and they don't get any compensation from me for making the pizza.

      Likewise... it doesn't matter how you acquired the goods... when the buy order fails you keep the goods. It's a very fair system.

      I will admit I can see a way to improve the current system:
      -- Provide information on WHO placed each buy/sell order on the market before you buy/sell to that order.

  3. Problem with collateral is that the players set the value of the items in most cases. So the collateral would likely be more valuable than the items in question being bought in the buy order. For example I put ship that is worth 50 mil according to insurance but is actually worth much more in the market. Its a neat idea but still ties up an asset making the margin trading skill pointless. I would then rather back it with isk at 100% and not even bother with margin trading.

    On the other hand what if an item is considered valuable to the server but not the players. It would be a sell order that never gets bought and therefore not recouped and technically becomes a free buy for the buyer as he actually got an item he wanted as well as the full value of the "worthless" item without actually selling it.
    I think I am making sense with this. Let me know if I missed something with this logic.

  4. I dont understand completely. If margin trading cuts off the investment made to post a buy order to 76%, then a buy order of 5 (minimum to trade 3) items would be 379% of the value. How come when i tried to sell 3 it still declared the buy order invalid, instead of doing the transaction for 3's value = 300% which was covered??

  5. margin trading V reduces the amount BY 76%, reducing it TO 24%. This means there is only 120% not 379%. What you _can_ do is sell, and set the price to be whatever that 120% value is--which will be well under the buy order. This order will go through, so if you can find the items for cheap enough and the scammer was greedy enough, you can turn a profit. Beware, though...I believe it is possible to empty out escrow by the scammer himself doing this trick.