EVE Online is famous for catering to its players' senses of enlightened self interest. Sure, being a jerk isn't for everybody, and charity happens between players that are complete strangers, every day. That's lovely, but it isn't making me piles of ISK. So stuff all that stuff about charity, we're going to talk about prospering through being a jerk.
If you have a weak stomach, or you feel like your real life morals should be reflected by your activities in a video game, you may want to skip this guide. When I first scammed somebody, way back in 2007, I actually had a nightmare about it and felt terrible for the entire next day. In my view, this was an entirely unnecessary fuss for my subconscious to be kicking up about a video game.
On The Legality Of Scamming
EVE Online's makers, CCP, have always taken a hands-off approach to managing their players' interactions. As long as everything happens in-game, doesn't mess with timecards or character transfers, and isn't the result of exploiting flawed game mechanics, it's legal. CCP staff won't reverse misleading deals, return destroyed goods, or anything else like that. Arguably, a large portion of EVE Online's PvP occurs via the marketplace, where IPOs designed to rip of investors, price manipulation, and price-fixin cartels are all du rigeur.
This strategy has worked out really well for CCP. They can expect to make international news whenever players do things like set up banks that turn out to be ponzi schemes, or anything else along those lines that ends up defrauding a massive amount of people, at once.
You don't need to worry about being a mega-scammer, at first. Start small and work your way up when you have a feel for making your pitch, and for the mechanics of the game.
The Basic Scam
The most basic scam is promising something in exchange for ISK, and then not delivering. There are a thousand variations on this, and every one of them will work if you can find the right victim. This article deals with two of the most prevalent scam archetypes.
The Contract Scam
This is probably the easiest scamming to get into. Everybody has seen those annoying spammers hawking their scam contracts in Jita. It's the brute force method: despite the use of obvious scams, if they pepper a chat channel with hundreds of shoppers in it, somebody out there will eventually be dumb enough to get suckered in. Scammers wouldn't do it, if it didn't work.
Some basic variations of this scam:
Contract stacks of minerals that are too small by a factor of ten, and hope that nobody notices. For example: create a contract with text advertising "100,000 Zydrine at 80% market price" but only have 10,000 Zydrine in the contract.
Contract an item with text claiming to be a particular item, but actually contract an item that reads very similarly, in the hopes that it isn't noticed. This probably works best on people that aren't natural English speakers, and don't have a localized client, but there are plenty of dyslexic or careless people out there, too. The classic variation of this is setting up a contract that claims to sell a Charon (an expensive Freighter-class vessel) but actually sells a unit of Carbon (a lump of coal).
Contract the incorrect variation of an item. For example, make a contract claiming to sell a Domination Warp Disruptor (an essential module for many high end PvPers, especially Gallente), but then have a perfectly mundane Warp Disruptor I module as the item exchanged.
These scams work best if the potential buyer is a bit off balance, so linking these contracts in local with doctored text is probably a good idea. The way to link a contract is to set it up the way you want, finish it, and then click and drag the contract icon in the upper left hand corner of the contract window, to whatever chat channel you're working. Jita local, another market hub local channel, or an NPC corporation channel will usually suffice. The text that appears will link to your contract, but is modifiable. So change it to reflect your deceit, as appropriate.
The Big Lie
Contracts might get the odd score, but they're based on the luck of the draw. You might get some chump to click accept on a really expensive contract, or you might strike out. If you want the big money, you need to start talking to people and promising them what they want and expect to hear, then take their ISK and leave them sobbing on a street corner in Jita.
The gist of it is to promise something that you don't need to deliver, immediately, and then never follow through. Some variations on this include:
Promise to research blueprints as part of a blueprint research service. Keep the blueprints. Some research companies will offer partial collateral for more expensive blueprints, as a guarantee that they are safe. You can do this, too, and keep the blueprint anyway, as long as the blueprint significantly exceeds the collateral. On the other hand, there are definitely people unwise enough to give you their blueprints without collateral.
Promise to let them join your corporation or alliance, and have access to really valuable areas of null-sec space. You don't even need to be in the corporation or alliance that you're selling access to, because you can claim that you're a spare character that doesn't want to attract attention.
Practice and Innovation
Those are sort of the classics of the EVE scamming genre. There are as many scams as there are thoughts in a scammer's head, and I encourage you to think of your own, especially since these ones are a bit worn around the elbows. The thing is, any time a scam becomes generally known, it is quickly over-done, making scamming even harder. So it's more important to develop new scams than to master old ones, though they're good for introducing you to the mindset of scamming.
As with everything, practice makes perfect, and will show you what scams and approaches to potential marks will work best. Good luck out there!
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