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Some advice on scamming

by on April 11, 2013

Life as a criminal in Eve Online includes a ton of time spent trying to convince people of things. Often these things are entirely false or against their best interest. To that end, having a couple tools to use for these sorts of situations would not go amiss, so I’d like to offer you some information that has been of use to me.


Firstly, I’d like to talk to you about the steps of the selling process. If you’ve ever had a sales job where anybody gave a shit about your level of success then you’ve probably seen this before, but I’m willing to bet it wasn’t framed in the context of internet spaceships.


  1. Approach


Whether you’re looking for a wormhole corp to steal from or a quick safari or starting a Ponzi scheme, you’ve got to find your mark and break the ice. The key pitfall here is approaching someone from an angle where they expect attack. If you convo someone from Jita local trying to sell a ship they’ll smell a scam a mile away. If, however, you happen to start talking to someone in a system where you’re both mining together wonder if a corpmate (even a corpmate in the NPC corp) would be willing to help you get rid of this ship or haul something in exchange for a small fee then you’re much more likely to bypass that natural defense.


Once you’ve determined who you’re going to mess with and what angle you’re going to come in from, it becomes super to make the effort to make a bit of a connection. Some people are weird lizard-brain robots who don’t care for pleasantries in the face of pursuing the almighty isk, but most people are put at ease by a friendly guy. I’m lucky in this respect in that I’m friendly and fairly confident, and I’ve long since learned that I can’t give my confidence in social situations to other people, so I’ll leave that bit to you.


There is one thing that I will say on the subject, though. Some people have trouble being friendly to people they intend to betray. The reason for this is that they immediately view that person as their enemy and that’s the context under which they decide that it’s okay to betray this person and have trouble being friendly to someone they view as an enemy. That view is somewhat incorrect. These people are not your enemy, merely your opponent. They are human beings, just like everyone else, and probably perfectly fine human beings on the surface (although I’m sure you’ll find out how they are under stress shortly). Unless they are immediately and obviously abhorrent you can certainly be friendly and interested in their lives and crack some jokes with them or find out their opinion on something.


This causes the interesting conflict where the truly terrible human beings are the hardest to scam in my experience simply because I can’t tolerate them long enough to complete the deal. I wish it weren’t so, as those are the people I’d most like to scam.


  1. Needs discovery


In sales the process of needs discovery would be to determine what someone is in the market for, what size of TV they were looking to buy, what their price range is, what they intend to do with the TV (video games vs. movies) and so on. When you’re clearly in a selling position these sorts of questions can be fairly straightforward.


When sizing up a target, the end goal dictates how straightforward you can be with your questioning. If you’re recruiting someone in order to kill them, asking what they’re looking for in a corporation is well within the usual recruiting practice, but if you’re looking to trade some overpriced deadspace modules they you need to find out what your target is interested in. If they’re in the market for some bling for their mission-running legion then it’s going to be nearly impossible to sell them shield tanking mods.


Needs discovery is something that you can go back to several times in this process if required. You may find that the target is ripe for something entirely divorced from the scam you set out to run. If you find yourself in this position it’s helpful to have experience with a couple other scams or possibly be able to hand a target off to someone more suited to their… ‘needs’. (Remember, if someone drops a prospect in your lap, they deserve a very healthy cut of the take.)


  1. Presentation


The presentation is the part of the process in which you detail what you’d like to offer the target. As you’ve already done your needs discovery, you get to tailor this specifically to the target. In the real world you’re limited by what products you have to sell and have to hope to match up the customer with the product and make it seem appealing, but for scamming in eve online your product is lies, which makes it especially easy to alter to suit.


There are three distinct parts of the presentation: the product itself, the features, and the benefits. They aren’t typically presented separately, so it can be a little tough to distinguish the three parts of the presentation if you’re not looking for it. The product itself is the thing you’re trying to sell. That would be telling your target of the space-guild you’d like him to join or the investment fund he might consider. The features of the product are the properties it possesses. Your space-guild has regular Orca-supported mining ops, for instance, or your investment fund has a return of X% over Y period of time. It’s important to present these, but you need to tie them in with the real meat of the presentation, which is the benefits these features carry.


The benefits are the way in which the features enhance the targets life. Some features don’t require any framing beyond their existence to convey their value as benefits, but most do. If you’re selling an overpriced deadspace mod it becomes poignant to tell them the difference in performance in running missions or whatever they intend to do if they have this mod. If you’re trying to get them to invest in something, the benefit isn’t the money but the freedom to do what they want or the benefit of whatever they mean to buy with the money. People don’t buy sports cars over kias because they’re fast or good looking, they buy them because they enjoy high performance driving or they feel they’ll get prestige from owning one.


  1. Addressing Concerns


This is the part where the target decides something about what you’ve told him isn’t to his liking. This can happen at any point and this whole process is not in a strictly linear step-by-step process. Your best response here is to know what concerns are going to be common going into the endeavour and have prepared responses for them. I suggest writing them down or, wherever possible, making alleviation of the common concerns part of the product itself.


It’s key here to not get argumentative or look desperate. If either of these thing happen, you’ve already lost your target and at that point you’re just wasting your own time.


If you get caught with a concern you haven’t thought of, it’s okay to work with the target to overcome it. It’s not the best method but at least that way you don’t lose the mark. The phrasing you might use could be something like ‘shit, I didn’t think of that. I wonder how I can fix that.’ Asking the rhetorical question invites the target in to help you solve it, which at the very least lets you learn more about why he has that objection.


  1. Closing the sale


This is the part where you pull the trigger. There’s actually not much to say on the subject except my personal request that you don’t be a dick simply because you pulled one over on someone. This isn’t Xbox live. On the other hand, if you geniunely dislike the other person, then this is a good opportunity to make them as sad as possible. The same goes if there’s some higher purpose than simply taking their money. If they’re a key part of an enemy organization and you’re hoping to demoralize them, than this is the time to do it.


Also, keep in mind that not every scam will be immediately apparent and there are some schools of thought that you should never admit it was a scam in the effort to try and get the victim to invest more in an attempt to throw good money after bad. This has been somewhat successful for me in the past, even though it’s not my typical habit.


  1. Follow up


There are two ways to follow up a scam. Firstly, if you don’t admit it’s a scam, you can possibly soak them for more money. A common tactic for the classic goon recruitment scam is to claim that an additional fee came up or that there was a problem. As they’re already invested they’re going to be looking for ways to recoup their losses and you may get a little extra out of them.


The second way to follow up is to mark that person in your contact list as someone with more money than sense and hit them again later with something else on an alt. Or, alternatively, you could hand them off to one of your friends or peers for some other sorts of shenanigans.


Twenty second blurb on neuro-linguistic programming


Neuro-linguistic programming is a huge topic in psychology that has to do with how humans perceive the world and how we can use communication to alter this perception. It’s an art that includes such things as tone and intonation, cadence of speech, non-verbal cue, and so on. For our purposes today it’s a bit beyond our arcs, but there is one part of it I’d like to touch on, and that’s embedded messages.


The most classic embedded message is if someone were to tell you to not think of a pink elephant. Because the elephant has been mentioned, you’re going to think about it. This is an embedded message. Your brain has picked apart what was told to you and examined the parts, therefore implanting the idea of a pink elephant in your brain.


The two ways you want to look to use this are in avoiding it when it would harm you and purposefully including it when it helps you.


A scam can be going fairly smoothly when suddenly the mark gets suspicious and starts digging harder. One of the reasons for this might be that you accidentally included a message for him to think about your deal as a scam. It could have been as straightforward as ‘but this isn’t a scam’ or as oblique as ‘give me the money and I’ll mark you down for this investment.’


It’s therefore important that you pay attention to the phrasing of your scams. I’ve got more to say on this, but it would fit better in an article I’ll be writing soon about influence, so we’ll leave this bit here and pick it up another day.


Including neuro-linguistic programming can be helpful, too. One of the things I try to do when getting into a safari corp is to use language that causes them to envision me as already in the corp. So I’ll say things like ‘once I’m in corp, where will I be moving my stuff?’ While not foolproof, it does help wear down the barrier between you and success and you should try to pepper those in occasionally in ways that don’t seem gratuitous or forced. You can also use this in the conversations beforehand to lay the groundwork for future scams.


A few manipulation techniques


  1. Controlling the target’s environment


This is typically one for longer and more complex scenarios, but there is something to be said for having some level of control over the information a target gets and who they interact with. This works best in a corp environment, where the people a target interacts with most often can be friends, alts, or people you’ve already influenced. This is something you see happening unintentionally in badly run pubbie corps throughout the game. They have created an environment where bad information gets perpetuated and questioning authority is strongly taboo.


This works best if the target does not realize his various forms of interaction are connected, so posing as a sympathetic but largely unrelated friend can go a long way.


  1. Creating doubt


A targets worldview is typically a background upon which their other decisions are made. This serves as a stable platform for their rationale in any situation. Creating doubt in their assumptions opens holes in this worldview, leaving their ability to make more rational decisions less reliable. This can be done subtly or directly, and effective forms of doubt to sow include the idea that their friends or CEO have bad intentions for them or that they have been fed bad information about their best practices. Showing someone things to check for in applicant APIs that frequently result in false positives is a good way to have them start doubting these assumptions.


  1. Create strong emotional responses


It will come to no surprise that people do not make decisions as well when under the influence of strong emotional response. Most emotional responses are of use to us. Anger against an outside force can galvanize your relationship with a target and make him more likely to take action that you can take advantage of if it can be portrayed as against your common enemy. They’re also more likely to trust you if you can place yourself on the same side of a us vs them relationship with your target.


Strong feelings of happiness, like the euphoria after a job well done can cause a target to be more generous, and feelings of belonging can make a person more compliant with the leader or prevailing wishes of a group. This is an idea exploited very well in patriotism.


Persuasive tools


Finally, winding this beast of an article to a close, I’d like to quickly mention some techniques you can use to convince someone of the validity of your position.


  1. Establish credibility


In an ideal world, an argument would be completely divorced from its author. This is the reason that we view ad hominem attacks as a logical fallacy. They have nothing to do with the arguement in question. It’s far more accepted to lean the other way, however. Were Stephen Hawking to tell you a controversial scientific theory you would be more likely to believe him than you would be likely to believe on of your jackass friends because science is Stephen Hawking’s super power. By that same token, people accept my advice on criminal behaviour in eve online based largely on my track record as a criminal in eve online.


Aiden Mourn recently pulled this off masterfully when he set up a Ponzi scheme claiming to be an investor in real life, and you can read all about it over here.


Remember, your knowledge or reputation doesn’t have to be real, it just has to be good enough that your target doesn’t know any better.


  1. Use a positive and tactful tone


People tend to get heated when their assumptions are challenged and, unless that emotional reaction is part of your plan, that can be a huge setback. If your position is logically sound enough to stand up long enough then it’s to your advantage to keep your target civil. Effective ways of descalating situations include using the target’s name at the beginning of scentances (not all of them, it’s weird if you do) and using ‘we’ language when trying to overcome an obstacle. Like instead of “You are you so mad.” try “What’s the problem we need to solve here?” Try not to lay these on too thick, though, or you start to sound like a psychologist.


(Some of you reading this may notice that I put lots of names at the fronts of sentences in regular conversation. It’s not on purpose. I spend a lot of time talking to furious players, so it’s kinda leaked through.)


  1. Make your presentation clear


This, again, is if your scheme stands up logically and does not require that the target be confused. But the simpler terms you can put your case in, the easier it is to digest and the easier it is to agree with. If a target starts asking himself what the hell is going on here, then your underlying arguement comes into question alongside the clarity of your arguement.


  1. Appeal to their self interested


Humans are more or less selfish creatures. That breaks down a little bit when you start thinking of them as ‘rational actors’ and observe the ways in which they aren’t, but as a rule of thumb, people are out to get theirs. There’s some variation of this across cultures, with it being more prevalent in North America, slightly less so in Europe and significantly less so in Asia, as a very broad generalization.


What this means, though, is that you can expect players who aren’t strongly in tune with their community or group to be willing to gain for themselves, even at the expense of others and especially if given a chance to do so without those people finding out. As an interesting aside, if they’ve engaged in this behaviour you can probably hold it against them in the future for blackmail, especially if they’re still with the group they betrayed.


  1. Give the target something


In some selling environments, the customer will be given food. Hot dogs done on a barbeque is a not-uncommon addition to a summer sale at somewhere like a furniture store and there’s a hardware store here in Canada that gives every customer who wants one a bag of popcorn they can eat while wandering through the store. The reason it’s food has to do with slowing down your pace and also forcing to you listen more, as you can’t talk with your mouth full, but being given something at all makes you feel gratitude to the giver, which invokes a natural human response to want to reciprocate.


This leaves the target wanting to do something nice for you to show their appreciation, which makes them more receptive to whatever your scam is.


A cheap ship when they are scrambling to fit something for a roam is a good one, as is help or advice.


  1. Let them hold the bait


It’s harder to dismiss a potential prize if it’s right in front of you. Placing the prize somewhere your mark can hold it is very powerful for further investment. Say, for instance that you’re running a moongoo reaction chain and your mark is helping and investing. If you let him hold a decent amount of it he’ll very likely be happy to help you further. Keep a very sharp eye that you aren’t being scammed yourself when doing this, and view this sort of thing as an investment in further profit.


Similarly, if a target is hesitant to buy or sell you something, pop open a trade window and put in the item or the isk amount. Obviously don’t hit accept, but it can be very powerful for the target to see his prize right there, one click away. When doing this, remember your sales profit and be sure to mention the benefits of this deal.


Alright, guys, thanks for wading through my wall of text. I have more, but it’ll have to wait for another time. Good luck out there, and I’d love to hear stories of your successes or failures. As always, feel free to contact me if there’s any way I can help.

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