Guide to How to Avoid Scams
Just what is a "scam"?
A scam is a very bad thing to be caught up in, by dictionary.com's definition, a scam is "a confidence game or other fraudulent scheme, esp. for making a quick profit; swindle."
Scamming is one of the oldest practices in World of Warcraft, and it has many different forms. Some scams are done to the player through the in-game system, meaning Trade Channels or Auction House, some promise 'cheats' or other goodies if you visit certain sites, some are just player-to-player trades that involve accounts, some want real information out of you, all ending up with the purpose of having you lose your gold, items, and possibly account, to the worst cases where you also lose control of your PC and must format it.
Types of Scams
As mentioned before, there are many scams circulating the World of Warcraft at this moment in time. We will go over each kind and what is suggested to avoid this.
Website Scams and Key Loggers
These are the perils "outside" the game that are the most common and the most dangerous to the player. You may sometimes receive e-mails from people claiming to be from Blizzard, even if they look with a real e-mail from them, asking you to click a link to log in and change your password, or accept a Wrath of the Lich King Beta Key, or that you're a winner and must verify yourself by clicking their link inside the e-mail and inputting your username and password.
As Blizzard has stated, they will NEVER ask you for your username and password for any circumstance. Those who do are are scammers trying to get a hold of your account and your personal information. Do not believe any e-mails you receive if they're not officially from Blizzard and follow their own code.
Other perils include visiting websites marketed for "Gold Selling", "Power Leveling" or "Cheats" in World of Warcraft - many of these have malicious code inside their webpages that install Key Loggers into your system, at the very least, making it very easy for them to track your username and password and then steal your account away, if atleast for a short while, making it pretty bad for you overall. Needless to say, hiring any of these so-called 'services' will also compromise your account and put it in grave peril of being stolen.
Auction House / Trade Chat
There have been many attempts by Blizzard to regulate and rectify this kind of behavior from people, but there will still be lots of people attempting to scam you through the Auction House.
How does it work?
People will list many of a certain amount of item, say... Runecloth. They will put up 5 stacks for 4 gold each, and one stack for 40 or 400. Since many people buy trade goods or bulk items in large quantities, sometimes they won't notice they're paying a lot more, and end up being scammed out of their money. To avoid this, you must always verify the amount you're going to pay before buying something out, especially in bulk, since one of those might be overpriced trying to catch an unsuspecting player.
Trade Chat scams are worse - you pay for an Enchant, or a hard-to-find advertised item, and they take your materials away without giving you anything in return. This used to happen a lot back in the beginning of World of Warcraft, and it's diminished considerably, but there's still one or two dishonest people going around. The best thing you can do is take a screenshot of your transaction if it's a high-priced one, and make sure that your exchange with the person who's doing it (and not someone else) is recorded in your private message logs. We'll explain why next.
In-Game Scam GameMaster Help
If you've run into a scam, many times you are able to petition a Game Master and have them help you out - Blizzard has taken a very harsh stance on scamming and if you have logged (by having a conversation with the person) the transaction, meaning there's evidence they had to do something for you, they will more than likely return your items and issue a suspension to the offending party.
The above is to be considered only after you've unfortunately encountered one of these situations - it is best to still avoid them altogether by being cautious and polite to others. Likewise, scamming through the Auction House can sometimes net people suspensions but that is a grey area and it is not always the case.
Scams are plentiful and take many different forms, but a player who plays smart and trusts no one with vital information will be able to steer clear of them and play happily.