Popular MMORPGs such as RuneScape are a huge target for scammers. Some of these scammers are account thieves or hackers that operate outside of the game, while others are people that like to scam players in-game, to take money and items.
Most scams are easily avoided if you know what to look for, and think carefully about every situation you find yourself in. This article by Lesley Harrison will help you to:
- Understand the most common scams and hacks
- Figure out how to spot a scammer
- Learn how to avoid the most popular tricks
So let's get started...
(For more resources on Runescape, see here.)
What do the scammers hope to gain?
RuneScape is a popular game, and there's a huge real-world market for RuneScape gold and high level RuneScape characters. A character with a high combat level, some decent non-combat skills, and a lot of quest points and gold can go for more than $300 on the black market. That might not sound like much if you're a RuneScape player that is attached to your character, but if you're a scammer that steals other people's accounts in bulk, and has no regard for the law, that starts to sound like some pretty easy money.
RuneScape gold is also sold on the black market, at a price of approximately £0.45 per million gold. Some of this gold is bought from players looking to recoup some of the costs of their account, but it's a safe bet to assume that a lot of the gold comes from stolen accounts being cleaned out, or scammers ripping off players and selling on their ill-gotten gains.
Let's not forget the people who scam for less nefarious reasons. Some people just like to feel that they've gotten the better of other people, and will steal from newbies or unsuspecting older players, just because they can.
Falling for a scam is frustrating, and can set you back a long way in your goals of earning that coveted party hat, cracker, or set of armor. It's also embarrassing, because in hindsight the scam always seems so obvious. Stay on your guard, and don't put yourself in positions where you are likely to be scammed.
There are several different types of scam. Some scammers rely on quirks of the RuneScape user interface, others rely on fast talking or social engineering, or on a player who does not quite understand the rules of the game.
Trading scams are some of the most popular types of scam. Scamming players will open a trade window, then close it, blaming lag. They'll keep putting up a trade then close it again, hoping that you'll agree to trade quickly (to avoid the lag). At some point during this opening and closing of the trade window, they'll alter the trade, hoping you won't notice that you're not getting what you originally agreed to trade for; they've swapped their side of the trade for a worthless item.
Rounding out your money
Some cunning players will say I'm quitting RuneScape! I'm giving away my money. Show me how much you've got and I'll round your money up to an impressive figure. You open a trade window and show them 700,000 coins. They put 300,000 in their side of the trade window. That looks like one million to you, so you accept, right?
Think about it for a second; you're giving them 700,000 gold. They're giving you 300,000 gold. They profit by 400,000 and you end up losing money. A surprising number of people fall for this scam.
Double your money
You may have encountered this scam in other games. It's certainly a popular one in EVE Online, where it's easy to tip people money without having to actually open a trade window with them. It happens a lot in RuneScape too, though.
The scammer offers to double whatever money you send to them. If you send them a small amount, say 10,000 gold, they probably will double it. Sometimes, they'll even double a large quantity of money for one or two people, so that those people will vouch that the scammer is legit. In most cases, though, the scammer will just log in a couple of alternative accounts of their own to shill for them.
Once a few people believe that the scammer is legitimate, people will get greedy and trade him large amounts of gold. Of course, he'll log out at this point, and keep all the money.
If someone offers you a teleport, look up the location before you accept it. Or even better, just don't accept random teleport offers from people you don't know. It's common for people to offer teleports to safe-sounding locations that are actually in the wilderness. When you accept the teleport, you'll find yourself surrounded by player killers looking to kill you and take whatever you drop.
Don't trust people offering to trim your armor. Armour that you obtain untrimmed cannot be trimmed (well, with the exception of Dragon Armour, which you can trim with an ornamental kit). You can buy trimmed armor on the Grand Exchange, or you can earn it by completing the relevant scrolls, but that's the only way you can get trimmed armor. Anyone offering to trim your rune set is just hoping you'll hand it over so that they can run off with it.
If someone offers to tell you a way to dupe your valuable items, report them. For starters, if they know a way to duplicate items, then they know an exploit. Using exploits is forbidden by Jagex. They should have reported the exploit that they'd found to Jagex, so that it could be fixed.
It's more than likely that they don't actually know an exploit, and if you hear them out, they'll tell you to hand over an item, or run an executable file that they'll send to you, or drop an item on the floor and then press a magic key combination (Alt + F4, anyone?). The end result of their secret method will be that you either hand over an item to them, infect your computer with a Trojan, or drop an item on the floor and close your browser. They take either the item, or your account password. You lose a prized possession and end up looking, and feeling, foolish. Don't do it.
Fake drop parties
Real drop parties> are held in the Party Room in North East Falador. In a real drop party, players will put items into a chest, and the items will be released through balloons, which the players have to race to pop, so that they could pick up the items.
Scammers often pretend that they're holding drop parties so that people will give them valuable items, which they have no intention of dropping. If you want to take part in a drop party, use the Falador party room don't hand your items to another player unless you know and trust them.
Password scams come in several shapes and sizes. Sometimes, you'll get a message from someone impersonating a Jagex support worker, or a moderator, who will ask you for your password. Don't ever give your password out. Jagex will never ask you for your password under any circumstances. You should report anyone who asks you for it.
Another way that people try to get player's passwords from inside the game is by saying The chat filter hides your password. Look! My password is ********, see?
Of course, the player scamming has just manually typed a bunch of * characters. If you try it with your password, it will be visible for the world to see.
Some bold scammers try telling people to reset their password to a certain phrase and then log out to get free stuff. The players then look out for people logging out, and try their username and password. Jagex now require newer players to use an e-mail account instead of a username, which protects new players from this sort of scam, but older accounts that use a username are vulnerable to it.
If you see someone spamming chat with a bulk trade for a popular item, check the Grand Exchange to make sure the price they're offering is legitimate, and then use a calculator to make sure the figures add up. You may find that they've conveniently added a zero to their price (or even just tweaked it by a little bit so they can claim that they've made an honest mistake, which still amounts to a sizeable profit for them).
When it comes to buying or selling, it pays to take your time and work everything out twice if you have to. If players get angry, yell at you to hurry up, or just act pushy, don't trade with them. There are plenty of other people who will be happy to let you take your time and have a successful, honest transaction with you.
(For more resources on Runescape, see here.)
In-game scams are easy enough to avoid if you are cautious, and keep in mind the age-old mantra of if it looks too good to be true, it probably is, but Out-of-game scams are another matter.
You've probably already heard of phishing, the practice of sending authentic-looking e-mails to try to trick people into clicking a link and giving away your account details. Some phishing e-mails are pretty easy to spot. They contain a lot of spelling mistakes and poor formatting. However, some scammers are getting more creative, and they are taking the time to produce authentic looking emails that will fool most
The e-mail looks legitimate, right? It uses official RuneScape images. It mentions Jagex, and the blue underlined link looks like it points to the RuneScape website. http://secure.runescape.com.secure.scammerlogin.fakedomain/ m=weblogin/loginform.html?mod=www&ssl=0&dest.
Turn off images in your e-mail client!
> For the purposes of this book, I opened the previously mentioned phishing e-mail, and allowed my e-mail client to download the images, so I could show how realistic the mail looks. In this case, the images came from the Jagex website, so it was safe to do so, but in many cases, the scammers will host the images on their own server, and include a tracking link with the images. If you download the images, they'll know that you received the message, and that your e-mail address is active. This means you'll get even more spam from them. If your e-mail client supports it, make sure that you block remote images in messages from untrusted senders. It should greatly reduce the amount of spam you get in the long term.
You should never, ever click on links that are sent to you in e-mails. This doesn't just apply to RuneScape e-mails, but other e-mails too. If someone tells you that you need to go to a website to reset your password, or set some security details, type in the web address yourself, or visit the site through a bookmark you've already made.
Keyloggers and malware
Another play on the phishing scam is the scam where you get a mail (or an MSN message or something similar) from Jagex Tech Support telling you that there's been a patch for RuneScape, and you need to install it in order to play after a certain date.
The patch is a keylogger, or worse, a RAT (Remote Administration Tool). A keylogger will give the scammer access to your RuneScape password, and other passwords too. If the scammer manages to infect you with a RAT, then they could watch everything you do on your computer; potentially getting your RuneScape bank PIN (or your real online banking details!) too.
Avoiding this sort of thing is simple. Never install software that is sent to you through e-mail. Never open e-mail attachments unless you're expecting them and trust the sender, and never trust a "Tech Support" person that contacts you out of the blue.
If Jagex decided to make a change to RuneScape that required you to either re-download the standalone client, or patch your installation of Java, they would inform people through the runescape.com website. It's unlikely that a Jagex representative would ever contact a player directly, and they would never contact someone out of the blue through Skype, MSN, AOL, or another form of instant messenger!
Bots, trainers, and more
Levelling up to 99 skill, for any skill, takes a lot of time. It's natural for people to get bored and look for shortcuts.
Some bots do exist, and some bot programmers are honest (well, as honest as someone creating a program to cheat at a video game can be). However, for every well-meaning coder attempting to automate tasks in RuneScape, there are many, many more that are just scammers hoping to steal accounts.
When you download a bot, not only are you risking getting caught by JAGEX and having your account banned, you're also risking the bot is actually some form of malware. If you download a trainer, a stat changer, an item duper, or anything like that, you can pretty much guarantee that it is fake, and that if you run it, you'll infect your computer with some form of malware.
Don't risk it.
If someone in-game is harassing you, spamming, or trying to scam you or another player, then you can report them. To do this, click on the red Report button under the chat window. This will bring up a box that shows the last minute or so worth of chat. Select the player you want to report from the list.
Next, select the reason why you want to report them.
This will allow you to send a report.
Don't be tempted to report someone just because you don't like them. If you abuse the report system, you could get your own account banned for wasting the time of the support staff.
You can report people for scamming, being abusive, harassing you, advertising websites, or botting. It's fair to report someone for attempting to bypass the profanity filter to elicit personal information from another player, or to swear at them or abuse them, but it's not a good idea to report a player if they're playing within the rules of the game. Use common sense, and understand the difference between I challenge your clan to a fight!, and I'm going to kill you in real life!
Some final tips for keeping your account safe
The following is a summary of some easy ways to keep your account safe.
- Change your password regularly.
- Set your bank PIN and make it something hard to guess (tip: 0000, 1234, and 4321 are not hard to guess!)
- Don't click on links in e-mails.
- When you set your password, try to choose something hard to guess. Use several words put together, and consider adding numbers to make it harder to guess.
- Don't share your password with anyone.
- Don't run programs that you've downloaded from unknown websites.
- Install some free anti-virus software (for example, http://free.avg.com or http://www.avira.com), keep it up to date, and scan your computer regularly.
- When it comes to trade, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
- If you play at school, or in an internet cafe, make sure you log out of the game properly when you end your session. Don't leave the computer unattended while you're logged in, and don't enter your password or your PIN if someone is looking at your screen.
This article looked at the darker side of the world of online gaming, and covered some of the more common scams, and how to avoid them.
In this article you learned:
- Why people scam
- How to spot a scam
- How to avoid a scam in-game
- How to report players that are scamming or harassing people
- How to protect your computer from viruses
RuneScape is a vast game, and as you've seen so far there are a lot of ways that you can make money, and a lot of things to spend money on too! It can be difficult to decide what to do to make the most of your time.
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