An Open Letter to Steam Key E-mail Scammers

Dear [misspelled game site] at gmail dot com, 2gaui.ff at hotmail dot com, and especially you, Danny from GameReviewBomb:

Listen, I know it’s hard out there. We all have work to do. We all have to hustle. The world is cold and indifferent to our suffering, so sometimes we have to get creative to survive. For you, that means impersonating twitch streamers to get Steam keys from independent video game developers, then turning around and selling those keys on G2A. Do I approve? No, of course not. It’s fraud, and a kind of low-grade, unambitious fraud that most fraudsters would be ashamed to try. But you’re here. You’re doing it. You’re trying your scam me and countless other developers.

Quite frankly, you’re embarrassing yourself. Not just because of what you’re doing, but because of how bad you are at doing it. I don’t know why you’re so terrible at this. Maybe you’re new at scamming people, and this is your first rodeo. Or maybe you’re an old hand, and you are discouraged because five years ago you were pretending to be a Nigerian prince. Now you’re pretending to be a guy who yells at Minecraft.

I can’t let you continue. I feel bad for you, which is all kinds of messed up because you’re the ones trying to cheat me. So I’m going to lay this out: if you have to keep up this awful work, you need to do better. You need to make me angry with you, not pity you.

First off, a little praise. Psychologists say that critique is better received when it is preceded by a compliment. Who are we to argue? I’m a game developer and you’re the internet equivalent of a grifter who is trying to hustle a pool hall on your first ever game of billiards. We should listen to the experts.

So I’ll begin by telling you one thing you’re doing right: you are pretending to be foreign journalists and streamers rather than folks from US/Canada/UK. This is an effective strategy for many reasons. First, your mastery of English isn’t doing you any favors and this gives you a reasonable explanation. You probably aren’t from the US/Canada/UK, though you’re not necessarily from the country you’re claiming as home (more on that later) so you roll with it. It’s also harder for us developers to verify whether you’re for real or not. You send out e-mails right as a developer releases a new game, and we’re simultaneously receiving legitimate requests for keys. It’s way easier for me to evaluate if an English speaking reviewer is legit because I can read their website. I can see if they usually cover games like my own. I can easily find their contact info and note that they use their own domain and not a random gmail address that ends in a string of numbers. Making me navigate a website in German is annoying. So bravo, that’s a good first step. But you can’t stop there.

If you’re going to claim to be an editor at the a prominent Greek website, at least give yourself a proper Greek name. Don’t just mash up a bunch of syllables that sound vaguely Greek. I’m talking specifically about you, Mr. Poskalelalos. There are dozens of websites out there that will generate an actual Greek name for you. If your job of spamming developers with the same e-mail over and over has left you so starved for creativity that you absolutely must make up your own fake name, then please at least Google it before your final decision. If there are literally no results, you probably need to go back to the drawing board.

While we’re on the subject, if you’re going to impersonate someone at a real gaming site, why not actually impersonate a real writer there? You’ve already sold your soul to the devil of the gray market. What’s a little lazy identity theft on top? Of course, make sure that your target’s actual e-mail isn’t somewhere accessible on the website. If the person you’ve chosen to name-jack is the editor-in-chief and his real address is the first thing on the “Contact Us” page, well, I’m gonna be suspicious about the hotmail account he’s suddenly decided to use.

Similarly–and I direct this to you, Danny from GameReviewBomb–please take some care in naming your completely fake website. Don’t throw together a site name that gives away the trick from the very beginning. Dude, I know you’re not with Giantbomb. Hell, I know you’re not even with the bizarre Russian knock-off of Giantbomb, Gamebomb.ru. Somehow you tried to split the difference between the real GB and Vladimir Putin’s shadow GB, and came up with GameReviewBomb: a staggering, weeping hybrid that can only beg for death. Run your idea by a friend. Or maybe don’t make up a completely fake website because literally your first google result is gonna be a developer and Austin Walker just clowning on you.

Incidentally, I don’t understand why Gamebomb.ru exists or if it’s legit, but it is hilarious and they can absolutely have a review copy of Echoes of the Fey if they want one.

Except, of course, we make English-language visual novels, so until we are successful enough to be able to hire someone to localize 120,000+ words into Russian, there’s probably not going to be a ton of interest from a site that is full of Cyrillic characters. That’s another thing you scammers need to pay attention to: what kind of games are you targeting? Who are the people you’re impersonating and is there any chance a developer would believe that person would have interest in their game? When a Turkish-language youtuber who plays nothing but CS:Go is asking for a key for a game that is almost entirely reading English, I’m going to hesitate.

That’s not to say that people who are in non-English speaking countries wouldn’t enjoy our game! Woodsy Studios’ last title had some decent sales in Asia on Steam and I’d be happy for anyone anywhere to play! I’m not going to automatically assume anything based purely on language. But at least find a Turkish youtuber who plays Telltale games or RPGs or something. Make sure I have some reason to believe that you are who you say you are. Or, y’know, stop wasting your time on Visual Novel developers.

While you’re at it, go back and check on the youtuber or twitch streamer you’ve decided to impersonate every so often. Has he stopped releasing videos? Is the last time she streamed back when Destiny came out? Is the top story on the website you “work at” about how the Xbox One will have to always be online? Maybe consider finding a new mark. Granted, abandoned accounts and sites are less likely to ever take issue with your impersonation… But you’re found out immediately.

Similarly, actually maintain the e-mail address that you are fishing with. The only time (that we know of, I suppose) one of you tricked us, it didn’t actually work because the e-mail bounced back. I ended up tweeting the person you were impersonating, finding out he didn’t write the e-mail, and promptly wondering what your endgame was. What did you hope to accomplish by putting in a non-existent e-mail address on our contact form?

Next up, if you’re trying to get me to send keys to you because you (claim to) moderate a Steam Community and want keys to give away, I have a hot tip for you. I feel like this should go without saying, but please don’t also send me a link to your profile on a site where you are clearly selling Steam Keys. I know! I know you are proud of the handful of grifts you’ve pulled. You want to show off how you are a prolific trader of Steam Keys. But when you just said you want five keys to give away to your members, you’re introducing a certain level of doubt that I should trust anything you say.

Finally, stop using the scam form e-mails you downloaded from pastebin. When I get the exact same request, down to the word, in multiple messages, it throws up a red flag. Yes, Brazilian youtuber, I accept your apology for your bad grammar because English is not your first language. But the identical, poorly-parsed apology I received from the Swedish youtuber three hours later rang a little false. At least you, Danny from GameReview Bomb, wrote your own unique pitch. Unfortunately, you send it verbatim to every single developer, typos and all, as evidenced above. As a result, we’re not too “trilled” to send you a key.

That’s it. That’s all I’ve got for you. Except maybe that you should reconsider the whole fraud thing. It’s pretty scummy.

Sincerely,

Malcolm

 

 

 

 

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I Can’t Support John Smoltz For The Hall Of Fame Because We Don’t Know He Didn’t Kill A Drifter In An Applebees Bathroom in 1997

It’s that time again, when the BBWAA announces its annual inductions into baseball’s hallowed Hall of Fame. This year’s ballot is packed with talented players, with more than a little controversy surrounding many of its potential inductees. But there is one name that won’t be on my ballot. And, yes, it’s for the reason everyone won’t stop talking about but no one wants to hear.

My conscience won’t allow me to support John Smoltz when it is possible that he murdered a drifter at an Applebees on February 3, 1997.

Yes, I know that Smoltz was never convicted–or even charged–with the brutal killing of a teenage hitchhiker in the bathroom of a Georgia casual dining establishment. But here’s the thing: Because Major League Baseball did such a terrible job of policing the behavior of its players during Smoltz’s career, we are left with questions that can never be answered. We are left to speculate whether the hard-throwing right-hander attacked an innocent young man in the bathroom of the Smyrna Applebees Bar & Grill just to know what it felt like to end a life.

What are we supposed to think? Just take a look at pictures of Smoltz before and after the 1997 offseason. You can see a confidence in his posture that could only come from using his bare hands to snuff out the existence of another human being, as well as a weariness in his eyes that looks, perhaps not without cause, like the weathered gaze of a young Charles Manson. His supporters are already rolling their eyes, and muttering to themselves that a thousand-yard stare means nothing. Maybe he just wasn’t getting enough sleep. But in the context of the era, when illegal activity was running rampant, signs like these can’t be ignored.

Maybe his supporters are right. Maybe Smoltz was doing something on February 3, 1997 other than brutally choking another human being to death mere yards from oblivious diners enjoying a generous serving of mozzarella sticks. Maybe, as over 18,000 murders occurred in the United States in 1997, Smoltz merely looked the other way and relieved his curiosity about the fragility of the human condition in other ways. But where was he, one of the most prominent pitchers in baseball, in protesting these thousands of killings. Smoltz never did a thing to stop a single murder in 1997, even if we suspend credulity and agree that he may not have been involved in one?

To date, Smoltz has not even addressed the accusations that he carefully placed an “Out of Order” sign on the mens restroom at the Smyrna Applebees so that he would not be interrupted as he strangled a complete stranger until he could no longer breathe. Like most of the other murderers of the era, he has chosen to stay silent on the matter. Where is the accountability from a professional athlete who says that these suspicions are “baseless” and “silly?”

I don’t care how many times you tell me that no one saw John Smoltz at the Smyrna Applebees on February 3, 1997, or that fibers from the floor of the bathroom matched clothing found in the home of an area serial killer. This isn’t a court of law, this is a Hall of Fame ballot, and my standard of evidence is a bit lighter than the burden of the state to convict.

Sure, Smoltz has a good case if you just look at the stats. But voters have a right–no, a responsibility–to consider the possibility that he used his greater size and physical ability to commit the most brutal of crimes.

Did John Smoltz murder a drifter in the bathroom of an Applebees on Feburary 3, 1997? I don’t know. But can I ignore the suspicion? Can I fail to weigh it against his MLB career? No, that would be a disservice to the Hall of Fame and I will have no part in that.