A lot of attention has been paid to the numerous forms and types of scamming that take place in the world of RuneScape. In this article, I'd like to explore some theories as to why this takes place, and what the rest of us can do about it.
First off, I want to state that I'm not a psychologist or a professional counsellor. But I have a lot of experience in both customer support and in working with kids as a coach. I take a rather pragmatic approach to solving problems, which sometimes gets me in trouble, but that's life – you can't please everybody.
The way I see it, there are several motivations for scamming:
- Laziness. This is the player who wants nice stuff but isn't willing to put forth the work to get it done. These are the same people who play other video games with "God Mode" turned on. They don't understand that the fun is in the process. These are the same people who seek out and use autoers and macroers.
- Attention Craving. These are people who crave attention for whatever reason. Though not afraid of doing the work, they don't want to do it alone. Initially, this isn't a scam or anything illegal, but it turns in to a severe annoyance to other players who want to be helpful and friendly, but get taken advantage of. The scam is this player's desire to monopolize the time and resources of other players.
- Experimenters. These people experiment with scams just to see if they can get away with it. From these people, you won't find "original" scams – but a lot of copycats. Therefore, I suspect they get caught easily – thus the cries "I got banned but I only had one offense! I promise not to do it again!"
- Hunters. These people make a game out of hurting and stealing from others. They have nothing against creating new accounts at the drop of a hat. They enjoy pushing the limits and are very creative in finding new ways to do their business.
By no means is this a comprehensive list, nor does it cover the variety of people who are in the business of scamming. I see these as generalizations, nothing more.
But why? The assumption that these people are isolated individuals inhabiting a dark basement or an attic bedroom I think is false. However, I do think there is something that may be common among them – lack of accountability. As kids, they aren't accountable to their parents (or guardians). As adults, they don't answer to a spouse. I think that their behaviour in-game is a microcosm of their real life. These are people who have little or no responsibility and don't take responsibility seriously. They lack integrity and have the mistaken belief that they are the centre of the world.
So what can we do about it? Jagex is trying extremely hard to eradicate the problem, but their measures don’t always work. Accounts are getting banned left and right, but nothing prevents the banned player from just creating a new account and starting over. Unfortunately, Jagex's attempts don't always work because they don't address the root problem. How can they? Scammers will always be creative and find new ways to get around Jagex’s security attempts. It doesn't matter how tightly you lock and secure your house, if someone is determined to get inside, they will. Locks only keep the honest people out. Jagex will keep on with their attempts to suppress this activity through rules, detection programs, and an army of moderators. I wouldn't expect anything less from them.
The rest of us, on the other hand, do have some options. There are things we can and should do, and there are things we should not do. Let's start with the don'ts.
- Don't try to scam others yourself. Keep your own nose clean. Pretty self-explanatory.
- Don't be a vigilante. Don't spend your time seeking out scammers by trying to trap them. Quite often, you're going to end up entrapping someone who is innocent and getting them banned when you are the one perpetrating the scam. I don't believe that being a tattle-tale will help you to get a crown by your name, and I'm not so sure it's such a desirable thing anyway.
- Don't let people get under your skin. People will try to bait you and trick you. They use techniques designed to get an emotional response. If you succumb, you've given control to them.
- Don't brag about it when you do report. If, after making a report, don't yell out "Reported!" This only makes matters worse and incites an argument. If someone is trying to run a common scam (e.g. "Free armour trimming"), go ahead and report them, but this is what you should say: "Armour cannot be trimmed. Don't fall for the scam." The scammer will shut up and go elsewhere, if only to get away from you.
- Don't use your RS password anywhere else – I don't care how reputable the site claims to be. If they want your RS password, they are scamming you.
And, here are the do's.
- Do remain vigilant. Watch the trade screen closely and make sure you are getting exactly what you expect before you hit accept.
- Do stay current with your security settings. Change your password and bank pin periodically (and if you haven't set up your security questions or the bank pin, shame on you!)
- Do keep the people on your friends list honest. Let them know that you will drop them from your list if you find out that they've done something inappropriate or illegal. Talk to them and be very clear how you feel about this.
- Do stay active in discussion forums like Tip.It. This way, you can stay knowledgeable of the various types of scams people are perpetrating. Be willing to share your experiences as well.
- Do use the report button – but do it responsibly! Only report those things that are clearly rule breakers. If it is borderline, ask the advice of a trusted friend first. It is better that a rule breaker gets away with something than for someone innocent to be punished.
- Do be proactive in your own household. If you aren't the only person who plays RS, make sure you are aware of what other people in your family are doing. Also, enjoy your life outside of RuneScape. There's more to the world than a few pixels on a screen. Take advantage of it.
- Do mentor new players. Help them learn to avoid scammers and encourage them to get involved in online fansite communities like this one.
It's true that most of the people who seek to harm others won't ever bother to read this article. It's a shame, because these people don't realize the rest of us just want to have an enjoyable experience playing an online game. As a community of honest players, we can work together to stem the growth of scammers by being aware of their tricks and not falling for them. If those players can't find victims to their scams, one of two things will happen: either they will quit the game altogether, or they'll change their ways.
Do you have any thoughts or comments about what you've just read? Want to discuss this article with your fellow Runescapers? We invite you to discuss the article in this forum topic.