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To most of us, earning money in EVE is a matter hard work. Some of us risk our hard-earned spaceships for a few hours on dangerous exploration missions. Others spend days raking in the space-rocks. Money in EVE can come from many different sources, but for most money-earning businesses the money comes from the game itself. In EVE most of the influx of materials and money is generated through PVE activities, either by ratting bounties, space-rocks, ratting-loot, exploration material. By doing it this way, CCP can somewhat control the amount of effort is required for the payout.
By strictly determining how much minerals you get per mining cycle, or how high an NPC bounty is, CCP can pretty much dictate how much you are able to earn. Of course, player-skills and knowledge come into play, by optimizing your ratting strategy, buying bigger ships (read: kill more rocks or asteroids) you can make most out of your time. In the end, most of these PVE activities have a profit-ceiling, that’s hard to break. When you run into that ceiling is strongly dependent on your pilot-skills and willingness to invest. Is your ceiling 20-30 million ISK/hour running missions in a battleship? Or will you go all the way to carrier ratting/rorqual mining, stranding somewhere around 200-300 million ISK/hour? Wherever you may end up, realize that however much you can earn ‘from the game’ is always somewhat regulated by CCP’s idea of fair payment. It’s CCP’s way to control the value of ISK.

Its an entirely different story when you plan on earning money from other players. You can avoid CCP’s ‘profit-ceiling’ and determine your own ‘profit’ doing activities like market trading, or selling items on contracts. In theory, this means an almost unlimited supply of money is available. But don’t get too stoked about it. The problem with these activities lies in the fact that you need something to sell of value, and somebody willing to buy it. Of course buying and selling at the right times may make people vast sums of money, but in the end, you won’t get money unless somebody consents about giving it! Your profit won’t get controlled by CCP, but by other players.

Of course, there are also ways to take money from other players without their consent. Taking some expensive modules from a smoking hauler-wreck, or blowing up somebody’s expensive PVP ship, can be big business. Take into account EVE’s unwritten laws: ‘don’t fly what you can’t afford to lose’ and ‘When you undock, you consent to PVP, even in highsec.’ Of course, the hauler player knew that he risks his valuables by undocking, and of course that PVP player knows he would eventually lose his ship. To some extent the money you earn during PVP activities is still controlled, just by the value, a player is willing to risk.

However, there is one group of players that can earn ISK without the regular CCP controlled ceiling. Without risking their own ships, and especially without other players consent. Of course, I’m talking about the scammers. There is a group in EVE that dedicate hours upon hours to lure unsuspecting players into their schemes. With the only goal of taking away their ISK or items. To find ‘customers,’ the scammers will usually publish their ‘too good to be true’ deals in local-chat of a highly trafficked system, in the hopes of somebody reacting.
Some scams are as obvious as daylight. Park your ship in Jita for a few hours, and you will probably see somebody offer you an “ISK doubler”. Where the victim can send the scammer some ISK, and get double in return. Some ‘doublers’ may actually give you that double amount when you ‘try it out’ with a small amount. But when the ‘big money’ comes in, you don’t get any of it back.

Other schemes are a little more elaborate. Who has not seen the person that has been quitting EVE fort he last two years? An attractive two layered scam is sold. The scammer is out her whole hangar for a whopping 9.5 Billion ISK. When you open the contract, it contains a long list of faction and blueprint items, at valued at only 950 million! An unsuspecting victim may think, the seller has messed up, and he has hit the jackpot, only to realize after the trade, that the total value is less than a few hundred million ISK. You should have known. Not all faction items are that valuable, guys!

Some scamming schemes are so elaborate that they are a lot harder to spot. Involving scammers manipulating the market to artificially inflate the price of a specific item a few thousand times. When a victim buys it, he may realize that it was actually a piece of junk.

I learned the hard way that something that seems ‘too good to be true, usually is’. In my earlier days of EVE, I was more naive and fell for a scam a few times. At the time, I didn’t have much ISK to lose, so the losses were minimal. But it was enough to take away my trust of others. At some point, I realized that the main reason I fell for it, was the fact that I unintentionally try to read everything that people spam in local chat, and get intrigued by it. I came to the conclusion that: ‘if something is in local chat, it’s either a scam or useless.’ Local chat: the main source of scams, annoying .gifs, and useless banter. When you think about it, how often is something posted in local that is actually noteworthy? In my mind, local chat something of which no good can come. With this in mind, I’ve actually gone as far as to change my EVE screen setup to ‘hide’ my local-chat. Of course, I have my other chat-windows elsewhere on the screen, but local chat gets a special spot. When you take a look at the picture. You will see my ‘local-chat’ menu is mostly hidden behind another overview screen, in such a way that only the players in local are visible (something I actually want to see). Everything else I don’t want/need to see. I  can strongly advise you to do the same. Safe yourself some screen space (god knows we see a way to many windows anyway) and possibly a scam.

 

Knowing that scams are in local, I’ve actually come to enjoy looking at them. Every time I fly through Jita or Amarr I enjoy watching the ‘new tricks’ that pop up in local chat. I see it as somewhat of a sport ‘to spot the scam.’ I open a few contracts, to see how ‘smart’ the scammers are today. Usually, you can find the trick by just taking a good look at the offered contract. But to be honest, occasionally I run into a scam that I just don’t understand. It’s getting spammed in local, so it must be a way to prey upon unsuspecting customers, but it’s too intricate for me. Sometimes, I actually ask the scammer where the ‘trick’ is. Usually, I get no answer…

Reading this, you could come tot he conclusion that I proud myself as a professional on the subject. And I am proud of the fact, that after those first two ‘mistakes’ I haven’t fallen for a scam for many years… until a few days ago. Unfortunately, even a cautious person can be caught with his pants down. And in my case, it was the oldest trick in the book.

As some of you know, I used to be a CO2 pilot. With recent events, we had to evacuate our home-space of Impass. In my case, I decided to drag most of my assets into asset safety, to pick them up later. After 21 days of waiting (a little more, because of a Sansha incursion), my gear popped up in Misaba, the null-sec system closest to our former home. Of course, when a herd prey travels,  predators will follow. I’ve been carefully extracting as much of my gear from Misaba as I could, trying to avoid the gate camps and station campers. At the end of the day, I had gotten most of my valuable assets to ‘safety’. But was left with a stack of T1 ships, T1 fighters and a Machariel. A little over 2 billion ISK worth, but it was a large volume, requiring several more jump-freighter trips. At the time, it was 2 after midnight, I had been working all day, and after work, I had spent several hours gathering assets, moving cynos and making jumps. I was tired, fed up with moving, and willing to compromise… and that’s the time mistakes are made!
I noticed a guy telling people in local (Yes, I can see local when in a station and I should have known better) that he was buying ‘stranded ships’ in bulk. I knew there are plenty of people in this business, and it can be quite profitable. I decided it was worth losing a few hundred million, in order to save myself a few more trips in my jump freighter. I made contact with the guy and offered my leftovers for a fair price (around 75% of the value). The guy bargained a little, and we determined the value.
I realize that trading items through the trade window is unwise. But when the agreed number of 1.4 B appeared on screen, and I checked it double. I wasn’t too hesitant. I just wanted to get to bed.  I started gathering up my gear and dragged it into the trade window. Hit agree. And instantly seen my mistake. While I was ‘gathering’ the gear, my friendly neighbourhood scammer changed the offered ISK and took away a few zero’s. In my tired state, I didn’t see the window blinking (as I know it should do when that happens). And agreed to trade my 2 B of gear, for 1.4 million profit.
I asked the guy if the 1.4 million was a mistake or intentional. And he was honest enough to admit it was an intentional scheme to trick me. I knew I had been scammed, and it was my own mistake. The value of items lost is sizable (I’m quite space poor), but it’s not worth crying about. I took my losses and decided to leave the guy alone. He played a simple trick on me, and I fell for it. I’ll just write an article about it, do a few days of ratting, and I’ll make up for it. At least I don’t have to haul the junk out, right?

 

As this story may illustrate, nobody is safe from the scammers. Even a cautious man (as I tend to see myself) can be caught at the wrong time in the wrong place, so protect yourself from it as much as possible. Hide your local window to avoid temptation! And even then, be more cautious than I was.

My mistake yielded somebody 2 Billion in ISK for 15 minutes of ‘work’. Which is probably one of the most profitable professions you can take on (other than robbing alliances blind). But that 2bil in 15 minutes is probably not the common rate at which scammers earn money. Between those highly successful moments, there are probably hours upon hours of ‘spamming local chat’ in order to find the next victim, so when you take that time into account it becomes obvious that scamming is just another profession in EVE, that takes a lot of effort to earn money.  How profitable is scamming actually? In all honesty, I can’t tell you. I’ve read a few articles about scamming in EVE online, in which the writer elaborates some of his ploys. One writer stated that it was by far the most profitable business he had ever ‘worked’ in, but didn’t publish any numbers on his success-rate or on the actual profit. Looking at local chat in Jita, within a few minutes you probably see 10-20 obvious scams popping up. From which I deduct that it’s at least worth the time investment.

I personally loathe the idea people that intentionally try to prey on unsuspecting victims. Then again, how much different is scamming from lowsec piracy, other than the fact that the victim didn’t consent to traditional PVP via the action of undocking a ship? In the end, it’s just another way to earn money. And who can blame people for doing it? CCP allows it, the game allows it,  and who else can say they earn billions with a zero skill point alpha clone!

At some point, when I’m on a real ‘low’, I may actually give it a try.

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