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Officers' Quarters: Five ways to spot scam guilds

Griftah hawks his fraudulent wares in Shattrath
Every Monday, Scott Andrews contributes Officers' Quarters, a column about the ins and outs of guild leadership. He is the author of The Guild Leader's Handbook.

Internet scams are nothing new. They're as old as the Web itself. MMOs have opened up new channels for scammers to operate, and WoW is no exception. As we approach the launch of Mists, unscrupulous players may try to take advantage of the influx of players by setting up fake guilds.

This week, one reader wants to share a scam story from her server in the hope that it won't happen to others. Let's take a look, and then examine how you can spot one of these scam guilds before it's too late.

Greetings,

The following was posted to our server forums. I was hoping that maybe, with names redacted, you might address this in a future officer's quarters:

Edited by [name] on 9/6/12 4:22 PM (PDT)

[Player 1], [Player 2] and how to scam Guildies and Maximize Profit.

We all know by now the sad story of what happened to . According to legend, [Player 2], booted everyone from the guild, took everything out of the guild bank, leaving a lot of members confused and wondering about what happened to their guild and their friends. Blizzard did nothing. Fast forward to the present day, we have [Player 2] bragging about his exploits and his mount in general chat / trade, flaunting the results of his ill gotten wealth and guess what? Blizzard still does nothing.

was a guild created by [Player 1], promising members fast progression and offering PVP, raiding and a stable community. Recruiting was fast and furious, with [Player 1] and his alts spamming general/trade all hours of the day, and baiting players of all levels to join what would be a huge guild with progression in every aspect of the game. Under that promise, the guild expanded fast, never quite achieving the kind of raiding success that would make it noteworthy in that category (3/8 HDS), but still sucessful enough to garner a sizable amount of members. All seemed well for a while.

What the rest of the Kargath community didn't know, was that there was an active scam going, designed to multiply the guild income by instituting a gold per officership program that would promote to officer any member who would donate over 3K to the guild bank. In addition, there were incentives to contribute all sort of materials to the guild under the premise that it would benefit guild progression. Doing dailies was also encouraged, again under the banner of guild progression.

A few days ago, once the guild reached level 25, [Player 1] changed the guild message announcing the sale, booted officers out of the guild and proceeded systematically to seize all the gold and materials from the guild bank, then he quickly try and sell the guild to their former members, only to end up giving it to [Player 2] according to my sources. [Player 1] is now on a guild called and logs in trade / chat to poke fun at Blizzard's inability to put a stop of situations like this, mocking former members and being a general nuissance. According to one of his ex officers, [Player 1] planned on doing this since day one, gloating that this was not the first time he did something similar.

The only way we can prevent situations like these from happening, is to keep the server informed of such players and their antics. My understanding is that a lot of previous members opened tickets in the hopes that some action is taken. In my opinion only swift and decisive action from Blizzard, will send a clear message to those willing to imitate and perpetuate the scam.

My concern, as a GM, is that actions like this give the server a bad name and makes it harder for decent guilds to recruit. ...

There is also no "Better Business Bureau" to vette guilds. This leaves a lot of players exposed to this kind of exploitation, the results being the player leaves the server or leaves the game - a lose/lose situation for all guilds.


Thank you for your consideration.

Anonymous

Thank you for bringing this situation to me, Anonymous. You're right that it hurts all honest guilds when guild leaders betray the trust of their fellow members. By going out of their way to make it personal, these guys are among the worst I've ever read about.

The best way to beat despicable jerks like this is by sharing information and making sure players can recognize scams. That's what I'd like to do here, with five ways to identify these guilds. We've seen a few examples already in the email above.

1. The guild leader doesn't have a known or stable history.

Most officers don't just pop up out of nowhere to form massive guilds. They have a history. Before you join, ask the guild leader what guilds he has been a member of and on what characters. If he or she can't or won't answer you, stay away.

You can also do some research yourself on Warcraftrealms.com. Search for the guild leader there. If he or she has no guild history or a long history of guild hopping, beware of that player's promises. You can also use the site to verify any information they offer. There may be no Better Business Bureau for guilds, but an officer's personal history can reveal quite a bit.

2. The guild leader is strangely aggressive about recruiting.

If the goal of your guild leader is to swell the ranks without regard to who is actually being recruited, that is a warning sign. Any guild that recruits this way, whether by spamming unguilded players using addons or simply advertising in trade chat nonstop for hours at a time, is not a guild that you want to join.

Having a big community is great, but a community that doesn't screen its members is headed for trouble. And of course it's possible that all of those recruits are being set up for a scam.

A guild leader who continues pushing recruitment well beyond the actual needs of the guild is another red flag.

3. The major emphasis of the guild is building up the bank.

Any guild that asks players to donate funds and resources immediately after an invite should be looked at with heavy suspicion. A fully stocked guild bank is a big asset to a guild, but it's not an essential one.

Always keep in mind that anything you put in a guild bank can be taken by the guild leader at any time for his or her own purposes. Scams don't really pay off unless you get people to give you stuff. A scammer will always encourage members to contribute heavily to the bank, often with bogus incentives.

4. The guild leader has unrealistic goals.


Building a successful community takes patience and hard work. Success is never a guarantee, and experienced officers know that. Beware of guild leaders who make it sound like they can accomplish it overnight.

5. The guild leader is often unavailable.

Early in the life of a guild, a real guild leader wants to communicate all he or she can with the new members. Important policies need to be conveyed. Doubters must be reassured. Duties must be delegated, and potential officers identified.

A scammer, on the other hand, is AFK more often than not, or too busy recruiting to talk to those who have actually joined the roster.

Few good solutions

I do wish Blizzard would take an aggressive stance against fraudulent guild leaders, especially when they openly brag about their exploits in public channels. Posting about it on the forums is helpful to your server, as long as the discussion remains civil. Publicly calling Blizzard out doesn't really help, though.

A better solution is to contact a GM and see what, if anything, they can do about it. Provide as many details as you can, including screenshots, the time and date that things occurred, etc. In this case, it sounds like some people did that, and I hope Blizzard can help them.

GMs are in a difficult situation in cases like this, however, since technically all of the gold and items were donated voluntarily. I'm not really sure what they can or can't do. They could probably suspend the scammer for harassing (taunting) the players they ripped off, but I don't know if they can force the player to give back the items from the bank. In my opinion, such players deserve permanent bans if their lowlife schemes can be proven.

With improved awareness in the community, we can avoid situations like this in the future. Prevention is far easier than undoing their scam after the fact. I urge those who have been in these situations to post about their own experiences below!

/salute

Officers' Quarters keeps your guild leadership on track to cope with sticky situations such as members turned poachers or the return of an ex-guild leader and looking forward to what guilds need in Mists of Pandaria. Send your own guild-related questions and suggestions to scott@wowinsider.com.

Filed under: Officers' Quarters (Guild Leadership)

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