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Crime The Almighty Buck Games

EVE Online Ponzi Scheme Nets $50k Worth of In-Game Currency 171

Posted by Soulskill
from the almost-enough-for-a-monocle dept.
Calidreth writes "EVE Online is famous for its stories of theft, underhanded dealings, criminal empires and general unscrupulous play. For EVE players, this is generally an accepted part of the game and part of the risk players run. The type of scheme might be old, but the profits were big in the latest EVE Online scam, which has broken records and is now being called the biggest scam in the game's history."
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EVE Online Ponzi Scheme Nets $50k Worth of In-Game Currency

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  • by i kan reed (749298) on Monday August 15, 2011 @05:03PM (#37099402) Homepage Journal

    regardless of how much real-world money the fraud was supposedly worth, it was all fictional money people basically invested for fun. Anyone treating a game as a serious investment has problems that the FEC can't fix.

    I see this as a positive thing for EVE, because it underlies how the game is a kind of organized crime simulator all-the-more.

    • The story is awesome but I hate gamergaia.com, they just re-post crap from forms and put it on their site.

      You get isk by selling these tokens. You buy a token using your credit card and the token represents one month of playtime. Then you can sell this token to another player for ISK. (At-least that's how it was a few years ago. Id figure they have a more direct method by now.)

      In the article "The amount of ISK stolen was enough to buy 2,953 30-day time codes which is worth a whopping $51,577.50" Th

      • by pz (113803)

        Is it not possible to sell 30-day time codes on the open market, say through some well-known auction site?

        • by ZankerH (1401751)
          You can sell them on the in-game market for in-game currency. You can't (legitimately) sell them for real money.
          • You mean like WOW gold?

          • by Yvanhoe (564877)
            Of course you can. That is a loophole voluntarily left open.
            • by Nick Ives (317)

              You can't turn the 30 Day Pilot License Extension back into a Game Time Card. It's not possible to legitimately sell PLEX for real money, although there are third party sites that will sell PLEX for real money at slightly below market rates and deliver then in-game via Jita contract.

              That's a ToS violation though, so it's not legitimate.

              • by Yvanhoe (564877)
                Has anyone been prosecuted for that ?
                • by Luckyo (1726890)

                  It's a contract violation, not a law violation. Contract violators don't get prosecuted - they simply suffer the penalties specified in contract (in this case, account termination).

                • by Nick Ives (317)

                  As other people have pointed out RMT isn't illegal, it's just a breach of contract.

                  CCP have recently started to take a firmer line on RMT and have mass banned accounts suspected to be engaged in botting activity and RMT.

    • by JavaBear (9872)

      Not quite.

      While the currency IS virtual, people are still spending a LOT of time playing in order to earn this kind of money.

      That said, kudos to the people pulling it off. It fits well within the game.

      • people are still spending a LOT of time playing in order to earn this kind of money.

        Not necessarily. If you have ISK to invest it doesn't take a lot of time to make more. I've made about 600 million ISK each of the last couple months by spending 15 minutes a day managing my investments. I guess you could argue for 7.5 hours invested per month this is not a very good pay rate but in the MMO scheme of things this is virtually no time at all.

        I've come to a point where the game is actually boring because I have more cash than I need and nothing left to work for because skills take so long to train. I have the best gear I can buy for my skills, and my progression to bigger and better things is limited entirely by the flow of time rather than anything that gives me an incentive to play the game. I consider this an immense design flaw. Level 4 missions are boring. Mining is boring. Exploring is marginally interesting in the same way as a sudoku puzzle but ultimately futile because it just nets me more money. Switching to a PvP clone slows down skill training which is admittedly a tough decision in the face of mounting boredom. There is no reason for me to even log in besides managing investments and talking to corpmates. Needless to say I'm looking forward to Diablo3.

        Cue some tool replying to this saying "If you can buy everything you need with under X bajillion ISK then you must not have faction module ABC which offers 0.0001% better stats than your meta-level 4 ABC module."

        • by sheetsda (230887)

          whoops - There were suppose to be <Off-topic rant> tags around those last two paragraphs. Darn HTML stripping.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          I want you to consider this a helpful post, not bashing on you.

          The reason you are bored is because you aren't playing EVE yet. You are just playing in the baby area, with the toys we left there to keep the kids from pissing us off. I'm entirely serious. If you have been playing EVE for more than 6 months, and you haven't gotten involved in some form or another of PVP, then you are denying yourself the entire POINT of EVE. Not to whip out the old stereotypes, but carebearing has never really been the
        • I've come to a point where the game is actually boring because I have more cash than I need and nothing left to work for because skills take so long to train. I have the best gear I can buy for my skills, and my progression to bigger and better things is limited entirely by the flow of time rather than anything that gives me an incentive to play the game. I consider this an immense design flaw. Level 4 missions are boring. Mining is boring. Exploring is marginally interesting in the same way as a sudoku puzzle but ultimately futile because it just nets me more money. Switching to a PvP clone slows down skill training which is admittedly a tough decision in the face of mounting boredom. There is no reason for me to even log in besides managing investments and talking to corpmates. Needless to say I'm looking forward to Diablo3.

          Buy a PvP character and use it as money sink. No need to endlessly train a new character, especially if you bathe in ISK.

      • by vlm (69642)

        Not quite.

        While the currency IS virtual, people are still spending a LOT of time playing in order to earn this kind of money.

        That said, kudos to the people pulling it off. It fits well within the game.

        Isn't that kind of like declaring a loss of $X billion dollars when they cancelled Eureka because each fan burned at least an hour a week at an average hourly pay rate of ...

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 15, 2011 @05:33PM (#37099816)

      it was all fictional money

      All money is.

      • by shentino (1139071)

        The money may be fictional, but the guns the feds will point your way for not using them to pay your taxes, are very much real.

    • by Culture20 (968837) on Monday August 15, 2011 @05:41PM (#37099930)
      In a game where you can pretend to be a vicious murdering pirate, is it okay to pretend to be a white collar criminal?
    • by Nick Ives (317)

      Actually, some people do treat Eve as a serious investment, like the real money traders ISK Bank. Using them violates the TOS; it's not something I would do even though their prices are far cheaper than selling PLEX purchased legitimately.

      Having said that, ISK Bank apparently make enough money to keep the Russian that runs it in vodka and caviar.

      For most people Eve is just a game though. There's no legitimate way to extract money from it, in fact the smart way to play Eve is to figure out how to generate en

    • by 56ker (566853)
      Yes it's fictional money, but people spend real money (each month) to play the game. Once people are spending real money, they expect certain safeguards. How much you can safeguard against human behaviour I don't know. However I do remember a story about the company that runs EVE Online employing an economist to deal with the ingame currency ISK. Most of what is described though is part of the game and learning not to get scammed etc.
  • You'd think a bunch of accountants wouldn't fall for a Ponzi scheme.

    • by h4rr4r (612664) on Monday August 15, 2011 @05:06PM (#37099454)

      Looking at recent history it seems like they are very likely to fall for such a thing.

    • Actually, that seems to be the majority of people falling for Ponzi schemes lately. Just look at who invests in hedge funds.

    • The thing is, *if* you know it's a Ponzi scheme, and *if* you know when it's going to collapse so you can pull out at the right time, it can net you quite a lot of money. Not realising either of these two things of course can be a way to loose a lot of money too.

    • Wake me when EVE has 419 scams.
      • by jgtg32a (1173373)
        With the amount of backstabbing that goes on in that game I'd think the 419s would be common.
        First hit on EVE 419 Scam
        http://www.eve-search.com/thread/1299045/page/1
    • What I don't get is why anyone would bother with such "investments" in the first place. The ROI promised by investing in Eddie's company was really peanuts. It was rather like sitting on your hands while you watched interest accrue (and your money de-value) on a RL certificate of deposit. A couple basic trade runs would have netted better.
  • BITCOIN!1one!11
    • "stories of theft, underhanded dealings, criminal empires and general unscrupulous play." That's Bitcoin. The Bitcoin world has a story like that about once a week. The entire Bitcoin economy does about the volume of one supermarket.

      • BITCOIN!1one!11

        The entire Bitcoin economy does about the volume of one supermarket.

        Did you see the number of exclamation points up there? Not to mention how much Slashdot covers Bitcoin? It's WAY louder than a supermarket. Maybe not as loud as an outdoor auction place like Tsukiji in Tokyo.

  • I'm not a luddite by any means but I still don't understand people's will spend money on virtual property. I understand buying a game outright to play it. I understand renting one. I don't understand the willingness to pay real money for fictional in game articles. I think it's a form of insanity. In fact after contributing in game content for free in my younger days and watching games fade out of existence - even games with a rock solid user base like Microsoft Flight Simulator - I'm less willing to spend

    • by kalirion (728907) on Monday August 15, 2011 @05:13PM (#37099540)

      How is spending substantial sums of money on in-game items of no practical real-world value any different from spending substantial sums of money on real-world items of no practical real-world value?

      Some people get as much enjoyment out of EVE as you might out of a month in the Bahamas. What makes them insane and you perfectly normal?

      • The fact that EVE players enjoy making themselves vulnerable to theft in the same way others would enjoy getting some sun and a nap?
        • Traveling to tourist destinations makes you vulnerable to theft, too.

          • by vux984 (928602)

            Your somewhat vulnerable to theft anywhere. Whether going on vacation makes you more vulnerable depends where you are travelling FROM ;) and how much brought with you to lose.

        • by tsotha (720379)
          It wasn't theft. It's not like the scammers broke into their account and transferred ISK to another account. It was a scam, and scams are part of the game.
      • You can't make another Bahamas just by hitting a button on your keyboard.

        • Unless you are a GM, you can't make another anything by just hitting a key on your keyboard. Due to abuse, even those powers are carefully monitored.

          The marginal cost of any single item in the EVE universe... is roughly 1 super computer cluster, and 10 years of pay for a development team. Because that's what it took to get here. If you have the ability to bang out a new EVE cluster, populate it, breath life into that population, and then just pop new ships and items into being... well you go right on
    • by Nick Ives (317)

      Just FYI, the dollar figure quoted is how much it'd cost to buy that much ISK if you were converting Eve Game Time Cards at today's prices.

      It's entirely possible, with a little skill and effort, to play Eve essentially for free. Spending money upfront to turn a GTC into ISK is actually pretty sensible. I did it to generate some operating capital and now I'm the situation of having a trade / industry alt that I log into every few days to update orders, move stock around and whatnot (pretty much the trading p

    • Social signaling.

      Why do you buy $30 t-shirts with hilarious geeky in-jokes, when the 3-for-$5 pack of t-shirts are, functionally, identical?

      Social signaling.

      • by shentino (1139071)

        It's conspicuous consumption.

        You expend resources to prove that you have them.

        And more importantly, because *other people* will judge you based on your tastes. Even though you might (and with good reason) not personally value a high cost brand over a cheap one, you have to accept the fact that other people will be watching your price tags, and it will control whose shoulders and elbows you'll get to rub with.

        • Honestly, when you do this in RL most of the time it isn't your shoulders and elbows you're ultimately looking to have rubbed.

          That said, I could go for a back rub right now. Too bad I didn't spend enough money on her and I lost my last gf.

    • People pay for game hacks. It's all about delivery of a service. Paying someone to read to you for an hour a day doesn't produce a tangible product either.

      • by DrVxD (184537)

        Paying someone to read to you for an hour a day doesn't produce a tangible product either.

        That rather depends on what you have them read; pick the right text and you may learn something. (or, even better, do what I did and learn how to read for yourself)

    • I and many EVE players will agree 100% with what you said. However, the reason there is an in-game to real life money conversion in EVE is because you can buy game time with real money, convert that game time into an in-game item which can then be sold for in-game money to another player, who can then convert that item back to game time on his account (or a few other services such as character transfers/portrait changes, etc). But the overall idea is simply that some people will have real money but not time
      • by Herkum01 (592704)

        Some players are not going to be able to compete against CCP, but there is no game without CCP.

    • You don't spend real-world money on in-game items. The only thing you have to pay for is the monthly subscription.

      This is talking about someone who accrued a shitload of in-game currency, completely in-game. There was no real-world currency involved, except the article's comparison to $50,000 in subscription fees(because you can trade in-game currency for game time).

    • Technically, buying a video game is "spending money on virtual property." It's just that normally you get a whole lot of it for 20-60 bucks, but companies like Blizzard have realized that once they make that initial sale, they can sell you vastly less content for hyperinflated prices. Valve is also doing this with Team Fortress 2, where you can purchase hats and guns for real world money. Luckily you can also just make them or trade for them if you really want them.

  • by harl (84412) on Monday August 15, 2011 @05:18PM (#37099610)
    Every money making venture in Eve is scam. If it doesn't start out as one it turns into one when the pile of cash crosses a certain threshold.

    There is no safe investment in Eve. We are all crooks.

    I think the only reason these things continue to work is player churn.
    • by Rigrig (922033) on Monday August 15, 2011 @05:28PM (#37099738) Homepage
      FTFA:

      Along the way, 345.18 billion ISK was paid out to investors as interest to make sure the scheme kept going. Another 452.72 billion was withdrawn by worried investors before the company shut down; that left 1,034 billion ISK in the hands of the company's owners.

      I always wonder how many of these worried investors recognized the scheme for what it was right away, and decided to try and make some profit out of it themselves.

      • by harl (84412)
        A very small number would be my guess but I totally agree that there are some.
    • There's always PVP, using the scams only as a funding method for said PVP. Then it's still fun.

      • by gl4ss (559668)

        isn't eve just an excel sheet filling game in the end anyways? so these scams are the game.

        • by harl (84412)
          You're just repeating an often told but completely inaccurate joke.

          The game is more social and politics than spreadsheets or even combat.
      • by harl (84412)
        How is this scam not PvP all by its self?
  • Scammer's writeup (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    If you want to hear it from the people who created the Ponzi Scam

    http://www.evenews24.com/2011/08/14/the-1-trillion-isk-ponzi-phaser-inc-speaks/

    They did a write up for this eve centric news site.

  • Someone pilfered a bastard sword, golden dwarven ring, and 150,000 gold coins from another player on my DikuMUD yesterday.
  • by theghost (156240) on Monday August 15, 2011 @05:28PM (#37099734)

    I read the same stories over and over again about EVE it really shouldn't be considered news anymore. It's Monday: babies were born, people died, people got scammed in EVE - business as usual.

    The people who are serious about that game are there precisely to play with exactly those sorts of behavior. I feel a little sorry for new players who don't know that yet, but even the most basic research about the game would clue you in. What other games would call griefing and fraud are the real game of EVE - all that crap about spaceships is just to keep the marks distracted while the sharks nibble away at them.

  • by Dunbal (464142) *
    If you send that ISK to me, I promise I will send you back three times as much!
  • by Fuzzums (250400) on Monday August 15, 2011 @05:36PM (#37099846) Homepage

    I don't know anything about EVE, but it sounds like life and Wall street.
    Everybody gets fucked and and robbed by a few bad guys and after 2 weeks we continue playing...

    • by gatkinso (15975)

      Except for in EVE... everyone is a bad guy.

    • You are right. It's why I quit EVE after some (I'd say too much) time.

      Actually I never got scammed (despite a few close calls), but I kind of hated the virtual world.

      You couldn't join a corporation without "background checks" and people were, simply put, paranoid to the bone. All I ever wanted is to shoot some NPCs and explore. My goals in EVE were fairly simple: Kill NPCs, get nice loot, use that loot to kill NPCs, ad nauseam. With friends.

      But EVE is about people mindlessly killing each others' ships, blob

  • $50K is like ... what real scammers make in a day, or in an hour. The actual tragedy is that ingame currency actually has an OOG value because like most MMO's, EVE has succumbed to the temptation of RMT.
    • There is no real conversion between EVE I$K and real money other than the one players put on it, just like any other MMO game. It is against the TOS to actually buy or sell I$K for real money, though they give you a way to legitimately do it by buying game time cards and 'selling' those for in-game currency.

      A 30-day time code will net you between 200Million I$K and 600Million I$K depending on where and when you sell it in the game. Like everything in EVE, there are wide market fluctuations for even the game

  • Didn't the last 'big' scam in EVE go well past the 100,000 USD mark? This is not the biggest...
  • PVP: a slugflest the outcome of which is basically predetermined from the beginning of the engagement.

    No Captain Kirk ramming the crippled ship down the giant evil reefer's maw, no Adama jumping the battlestar into the atmosphere underneath the Cylon over watch, no hiding behind an asteroid, no jamming their comms, no collision damage... no skill or cunning at all. Once someone with a better fit scrams you, you can take your hands of the keyboard and the outcome will be the same.

    I should be able to punch

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