Avoid getting scammed in Steam!
Avoid getting scammed in Steam!
How to look up a user safely and check if they’re a scammer:
If the person is messaging you on Steam, click their user picture in the chat window to go to their Steam profile. Right click that page and choose “Copy Page URL” to make sure you have their real Steam profile page. If the person is messaging you on another website, there should be direct (not typed by the user) links to their Steam profile page. From there you can copy the URL from the address bar in your browser.
Then go to SteamRep and paste that copied link into the search bar to bring up their user page. If a user has been marked as a scammer or caution (on a SR member community) it will be listed on this page. It’s possible that a user has pending scam reports against them but are not yet marked. To look these up, click the “Search SteamRep Forum” link in the “Search Engine Queries” section on the user’s page. Each SR user page also has user-specific links to multiple trading and rep sites, use these rather than trusting any links given to you by a user (see #1).
Other things that indicate a probable scammer or scammer alt account are low games playtime, low backpack value (when buying expensive items), few other games on Steam, private account, and low account age (which shows on their SR page). A lack of fluency in English is also a possible warning sign, but shouldn’t be used as a sole reason not to trust someone.
- Fake Phishing Links
One of the most common scams, this is a technique used by many, even outside of the game. Phishing links look like links to familiar websites, but are actually imitation websites that try to trick you into giving them your account details (Steam and/or email username and password) or download malware that will take your details/control of your computer. With these details the phisher can gain control of the account and lock you out of it by changing account details, then move your items and steam wallet funds to one of the phisher’s accounts.
Phishers can contact you through Steam, trade sites, and even email so always be careful to check before you click links. Even better is to not click links at all, and navigate to the real page yourself by searching (see top for details).
This involves the victim thinking they’re getting one item but gets another instead. While in a trade, a scammer will put up the desired item. Without the victim noticing, he’ll quickly switch it to another item of less value that looks similar. A common attempt is switching an expensive unusual hat with a much cheaper unusual version of that hat; the item will look the same in the trade window but have a different effect. The item might also be renamed so that chat window of the trade that updates when items are removed/added looks less suspicious. After trading, the victim is left with the switched item.
This scam often involves misdirection; they’ll ask a question in Steam chat so the victim switches windows and then the scammer will swap the item while the victim is typing. They might also ask the victim to add another item or remove one of them, or add and remove many items themselves to mask the visible chatlog from showing that they’ve switched the item.
With updates to Steam trading this has become easier to notice. Any change in items is shown in the trade chatlog and any change after you have readied up on the trade will stop you from accepting the trade. Always take your time in trades, and double check all items after you have clicked “ready”.
- Bait and Switch
2 complicit scammers go on a trade server, a trade site, or possibly contact people directly. The first advertises that they are paying a very high amount for a specific item (usually rare but not a requirement), a lot more than it is actually worth. The second advertises selling that exact item, for more than it is worth but for less than the other scammer is offering. They pretend to be unaware of each other, hoping that someone gullible will try to make a quick profit by buying the overpriced item from the second scammer with the intent to sell to the first. Once the item has been sold to the victim for the inflated price the two scammers leave the server, close their listings, or block the victim, leaving the victim stuck with the item.
A scammer may ask to borrow a specific item for a short period of time (usually giving some flattering reason to the victim). After the item is given, it won’t be returned. Scammers will take advantage of online acquaintances this way if given the chance. Never lend an item you aren’t willing to lose to find out if your “friend” is a scammer.
- Trading Outside Steam
A scammer may offer to purchase a victim’s item with something that won’t fit in the trade window (usually cash or game codes). They’ll ask the victim to go first and claim that they’ll give the payment separately after they have the item. Once they have the victim’s item they’ll simply block the victim. Many times the offer will be very high to attract victims with more greed than sense. If something seems too good to be true it likely is.
This is also sometimes accompanied by a fake link (see #1) for rep to show why they deserve to go second in the trade; never trust links the other person gives you.
Instead of a fake link, the scammer may impersonate a trusted trader in which case the links would be correct but not belong to the scammer’s account. Looking up the potential scammer’s info as detailed above (not using the links given to you) can make the impersonation obvious. Always double check before a transaction.
There are legitimate transactions with legitimate traders that happen partially outside the trade window, but the possibility of being scammed is very high. SteamRep maintains a list of trusted middlemen, which act as a neutral party to hold the Steam-tradable side of payment while the rest is transferred. Even with a trusted middleman in a cash trade you can still be scammed (see #7), so be careful.
- Middleman Injection
After a trade that takes place partially outside Steam has been agreed to, a middleman needs to be chosen. The scammer will suggest a trusted middleman that checks out correctly on SteamRep. However, once the victim agrees to the middleman a fake account pretending to be that middleman adds the victim. Once the unaware victim completes their side of the transaction, believing that they are using a trusted middleman, both the scammer and accomplice will delete and block them while keeping the stolen goods.
Make sure you personally add the middleman yourself, and independently verify the identity of the person who added you using the instructions above (look up both accounts on SteamRep and compare). If you’re not listed in the friends list of the actual trusted middleman, you’re dealing with a scammer. You need to check the MM out yourself – that means you click on the MM’s profile and copy/paste their profile URL into SteamRep and verify that it’s the person they say they are.
Funds sent over PayPal (and some other sites) can be “charged back”, meaning that PayPal revokes the transaction and gives the buyer their money back. Scammers abuse this by making otherwise legitimate transactions then pulling their money back (sometimes months later) so that they get too keep both the items and the cash.
To limit your risk of being charged back (if you use PayPal the risk will always be there), make sure the person buying from you has a long history of successful cash transactions without charge backs. To search for a user’s rep thread navigate to their SteamRep page and click the “SOP” link in the “Search Engine Queries” section. Comments on one’s Steam profile should not be considered rep as they are easily faked and any negative comments can be deleted by the user.
It is recommended that (for maximum risk avoidance) that the buyer’s cash rep (from a trusted source) should extend far beyond 90 days in the past. Ideally you should never sell to someone with lots of cash rep that only goes back 90 days or less because this is the most common charge back window for PayPal purchases. As a rule of thumb for selling anything of major value, ignore any cash rep made in the last 90 days and ideally their older cash rep should definitely total more than what the current transaction is. This indicates that they are invested in their rep and aren’t gaining more by possibly choosing to charge back than they are giving up in historical reputation they’ve built up.
MoneyPak and Bitcoin do not allow for charge backs, these are safer alternatives.
Any betting or gambling game that relies on trust that the losing party will pay up has the possibility of that party simply choosing not to pay. This is considered scamming. To avoid this, use a trusted middleman to hold each party’s itemsbefore the game begins. Because any middleman can theoretically scam you the same way once he has your items, be careful who to trust (see #5).
- Money Transfer within Steam
Many times scammers will attempt to convince the victim that money can be sent directly over Steam, usually as part of some other trade. This is a variant of #5 which relies on the victim not being familiar with Steam Trade/Offers/Market. They may put something in the chat that appears to be an automated payment message or simply convince you that it will happen.
The only way currently that money (as Steam wallet funds) can be transferred in Steam is through the Steam Community Market. It cannot be transferred as a result of a trade in Steam or through the Steam Offers interface.
If you ever feel unsure about a trade, take a step back and research it. Valve puts out FAQs on all of their trading methods that are explicit about what is allowed and what is not.
Variants of the above happen all the time, and new scams are always being thought up. Be careful! Never rush into trades, especially if they seem too good to be true. Take the time to ensure that you won’t be scammed.