Welcome to Trading Safely by Reaper This guide should hopefully help you with making safe trades, within gaming, and some of these tips can even help you through your life. Please see the bottom of this thread for licensing information and how you can use this guide and how (and if) you can republish it. Full information is provided at the bottom of this thread. With the increase in illegitimate trades and people being victims of fraud and 'scams' during trades, this guide was written to increase knowledge and awareness of how to trade. Please keep in mind that these tips are going to take you a long way, and generally speaking, they will help a lot as far as trading goes. I would recommend strongly reading over them and learning how to pick out a scam. SIMPLE POINTS: If a deal is too good to be true, it probably is If you're afraid to go first, there's no reason to be pressured into it. Work it out or use an escrow (middleman) Make sure your computer and network is secure If there's something you really like, you may start acting quickly to get it before anyone else. That's where problems occur. Act quick if you like, but don't forget this guide and how to trade safely GOALS Together, by educating our future traders, hopefully we can put an end to Internet scamming. This is a pretty general guide though, nothing too specific. IF THE DEAL IS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE, IT PROBABLY IS I'm selling a diamond for just $15. Buy now, or forever hold your peace. Now, there are some crazy people out there that do this, but usually when you see this, you want to choose the option "forever hold your peace". A more relevant example is if someone is selling a website worth $25,000 to you for just $750. Two things could be happening here: they don't own the website they don't plan to give the website to you Vet, vet, vet! We will discuss further on vetting and some techniques later on. But seriously, how many times have you heard this? If you Google "now to not get scammed" this is everywhere, and it's the first rule. Scammers often won't bother spending the time to find a real buyer. They're going to rush you into it, and make it real cheap. "Yo, dude, I gotta pay rent, my landlord is standing right next to my computer. The FBI and Interpol is here right now too dude, they're gonna kick me out if you don't buy my website." (or maybe a little more believable). Maybe he really is late on his rent, but what's a guy with a $25,000 worth in website or a damn expensive diamond doing late on his $100 rent? Fishy? You bet. It's not always fake though. It could be cheap for other reasons. Online accounts, such as Xbox Live Gamertags, PSNs, Minecraft accounts, are some great examples of accounts that could be worth a lot but... are cheap? . Well, very often these accounts are stolen (call it cracked, illegally obtained, etc.) They not only violate the terms of the company managing those accounts (such as Microsoft/Xbox managing the XBL accounts) but there is a chance (could be high all the way to low) that the account could be recovered. You should do your own research into what you're buying (or selling). IF YOU'RE AFRAID TO GO FIRST, THERE'S NO REASON TO BE PRESSURISED INTO IT. WORK IT OUT OR USE AN ESCROW (A MIDDLEMAN) Someone is on the forum and has little to no activity, you have no clue who the guy is! Now, personally I'm a firm believer in "account statistics don't matter" but they do play a factor in this. The bigger the account, the more unlikely it is for them to make a fraudulent deal with you. Now, there is always the scenario where the account is stolen or sold, but we'll cover that later. If they have got a lot of posts and account activity, have completed a lot of trades (including in larger amounts) successfully, there is a high chance the user is legitimate and has too much to loose. If the value of your trade doesn't match the value of their account and the possible harm on their trading reputation, then it's likely they'll be smart enough to not risk it. Use an escrow (aka a middleman) if need be! If someone refuses to use an escrow, let it go. Don't pursue it or decide you'll go first since the guy seems trustworthy, or you just want the deal to take place because you really want this. Any legitimate seller will agree to use an escrow, generally, no specific names at this point. You can both agree on a middleman. Sometimes sites will have an approved list of escrows, but sometimes they will reduce liability by not having one. Regardless, there are plenty of escrows to choose from out there. Yes, escrows can often charge fees, and people avoid them for that, but a lot do it for free just to help and sometimes the fee can be worth the safe trade with someone that could be sketchy (if they seem too sketchy, don't do the deal altogether). DON'T SEND AS FAMILY AND FRIENDS PayPal has the goods and services category for a reason. If someone asks you to send as family and friends, say that to them. If they're really insisting on family and friends, either refuse the trade and find something else or you can take the risk, but if you have any other doubts about them, even remotely, do *not* go ahead with it. This doesn't mean use family and friends if you're pressurised. This guide advises not to use it at all. There's a reason for the goods and services option. It can be charged back in case there is a problem and includes PayPal Buyer Protection. To sellers: It's easy to win goods and services disputes if they're valid. As a note, it's very easy to win family and friends disputes if the person on the other side knows what to do, much easier than goods and services disputes. MAKE SURE YOUR COMPUTER AND NETWORK IS SECURE You know, when I was in primary and secondary school I got absolutely battered with staying safe online through social media. I hope I'm not going to be giving you a basic lecture, but this is pretty important. Keep your financial data safe! Only make transactions when connected to a secure, private network. Starbucks, bus WiFi, airports, those are all bad places to do transactions. I was sitting at Heathrow Airport (UK) using their WiFi to save some data and I got certificate warnings on a lot of popular websites. My first guess would be either people were trying to eavesdrop or LHR decided to route connections through them (or use different certificates). Don't connect to those sites. Listen to the warnings your browser is giving you, don't connect to those websites! Use a computer only you (or if at home or at work, an account only you) have access to. Use a good Antivirus and keep it updated. ESET is my personal favourite. Do your best to avoid the following happening to you: Credit card fraud Identity fraud Excessive personal information sharing More on that here. KEEP YOUR PASSWORDS SAFE AND SECURE Personally, I like to use a trusted password manager to manage my passwords. LastPass and iCloud Keychain Access are some good tools to use. Generate long, hard passwords with letters (lower and upper case), numbers and symbols. You can't remember them? That's the whole point! You don't remember them, and neither do people wanting your accounts. Make sure you change even these regularly. Never use the same password twice. BUYING FROM A WEBSITE? FIND THE WEB ADDRESS YOURSELF I appreciate everyone that decides to throw links to purchase pages for convenience (and confirmation), but I usually tend to Google the name and find the website myself, to save from any phishing attempts. Phishing is a common thing these days. Make sure you are buying from the right website! You can never be too cautious. START VETTING Vetting is a great technique and you should start getting into the habit of it. Something I get asked is: "Is it illegal?" - the answer is nope. Depending on the techniques you employ, more often than not it's actually legal to vet someone. Employers do it all the time. You know when you got that job of yours? They (may have possibly) looked all through your Facebook right to your join date. Vetting is great, it let's you know who you're dealing with. One of my business partners does it almost too much, he vets someone out even before talking to them. He likes to know who he's dealing with. Guess how many times he's been scammed in the last 5 years? Yup, not at all. He makes deals on a daily basis. He can get chargebacks sometimes, but he wins a majority of them. Find out who you're talking to. Google is your friend. Sadly, vetting techniques isn't the purpose of this article, but Google for it and you'll find out a lot. You want to know more about this person's past than they know themselves (OK, that's a bit exaggerated). If that guy has even scammed a penny, you will know about it. If you can't find any information on him, or the paper trail looks almost too clean... Well... You know what that means, right? This is really the most important step. This includes finding out if they have a history of scamming on the same site that you're trading on, and also offsite. You want to make sure this isn't a fake name or something as well, if there's no history to it or it looks too clean and nicely packed together, well read the paragraph above DURING THE TRADE: WHO ARE YOU TALKING TO? It's notable that often scammers can have a poor understanding of the English language. Someone who doesn't speak English as their first language could even point out clear flaws in their text. Someone that doesn't present themselves professionally and makes it seem casual more than a business exchange could be giving you a sign: "I'm not really going to have a legitimate trade with you dude." A lot of the times scammers can make excuses, go back on or change the deal slightly into their favour, start refusing to go first (sometimes due to, what may actually be valid, past experiences, for example, or trust issues). It's fishy, it can be real but it's fishy, for sure. Notice all the behaviour of the person you're going into a trade with. A few common scenarios that occur after sending payment: Slow responses, eventually none at all Excuses, such as "I have to go off now" or "I'm getting tired, I need to go to bed", when the person was perfectly active before you sent the money and actually rushing you to do it as well Removes you as a contact straight away Those are huge, common red flags. If at any time you feel like something is going wrong, it's better to be safe than sorry, end the deal right there. REQUESTING PROOF There's nothing wrong with making sure you really are getting what you think you're paying for. Google do it through TXT records (automagically). Other huge marketplaces out there verify websites by asking the user to create a text file or a DNS record. Amazon SES has its ways too, verification CNAMEs. Feel free to ask for proof, such as over join.me or restricted Teamviewer, screenshots, DNS records or uploaded files (if dealing with domains or websites), asking them to login somewhere and say some certain message (if dealing with online accounts). Verify they really have it. HOW TO USE AN ESCROW? Some escrows don't like getting in the middle of a payment. I never did. What you can do is hand the escrow the account, who confirms with the person paying. The person paying sends the payment over, and when it's all confirmed the escrow sends the account over. There's always the risk of 'chargebacks', but instead you're handling it instead of poor escrow over there. There are lots of ways to deal with PayPal disputes. KEEP TRADES ON SITE People commonly like to take trades to IM services such as Skype or MSN. I recommend you keep them in the site's messaging service. INVESTMENTS (really?) PROFESSIONAL OR AMATEUR? Some scammers treat scamming like an art. They're so talented they'll get you tangled in words and take your money before you even know what day it is. Remember, scam 'artists' could be professionals, be wary every single time. LEGAL THREATS A lot of people seem to poo themselves with these. It's a common tactic to get a cheaper deal to be honest. If you're getting a legal threat, verify the authenticity of what's being sent. If it's from officials, verify the identity of the officials, deal with it that way. If it's just a formal notice, well, I don't want to get in depths on that. It's less common for this to be a problem, but a lot fall for it so it's something worth mentioning. Is bbc.co.uk really bbc.co.uk? When is it not? What on earth are you going on about now, Dave? Yes, it is. You probably matched every single letter together to see it's the same. Well, www.bbc.co.uk. Is it really the BBC? Nope, it's ITV. Got ya. (I know you can see the favicon of the site before the URL here, that's just here though). Hovering over a link can really help. Another thing that can help is not clicking on ad shortened links. There are a few tricks to really catch scammers with these types of links, but perhaps that'll be included in a future revision. COMMON SENSE The best tip of all. Use your common sense. When I deal, I don't even think about whether the person is a scammer anymore, it comes to me naturally. I think about it and my judgement is done very fast. I do trades all the time in high amounts and I never have problems. The last time (and only time) I had problems is when I trusted a 'friend', he was of questionable nature anyway, I should've know. Don't let your heart operate before your brain is one good example of using common sense. Another example is just reading. CONCLUSIONS I hope you learned a few basic (and more advanced) ways on how you can protect yourself during trades. Pass a link to this guide on, and keep passing it on. A day will come when scammers simply can't roam around taking people's hard earned money, because we'll all be smart enough to stop that happening. Education is your greatest gift, and I've just shared mine. USING THIS GUIDE This guide was created from personal experience and various sources to confirm and validate information. You may not copy and paste this onto your own site, forum, etc. That's copyright infringement by me. This is my work. What you can do is link to this thread and provide credit to myself. If you wish to work out an arrangement where you can use this on your own website, please contact me. A lot of the time I may say yes. Don't be that guy who uses someone's work without permission. You wouldn't like it if people did that to you.