PROTECTING YOURSELF FROM EBAY SCAMS [Author: wirehead]

Got this informative note in:

In this case the gentleman may have very little he can do, as it appears that no money changed hands. In the case of EBay, however, you are entering into a binding contract. I you renege on the contract and it is a goodly enough amount (over US$250) you may wish to contact the following authorities:

Send your payment via mail? Call the postal service. Mail fraud is one serious Federal Offense, 5 years and / or US$50,000 fine per offense. No joke.

Send your payment via Credit Card? Call your card company and the scammer is probably going to be in a world of hurt. Credit Card companies *hate* scams. They end up paying for most of them, so they will probably try to get as much from him as possible.

Send your payment via wire (i.e. Western Union)?: Call your local authorities, which may in turn contact the Feds or another party. Wire fraud is just as bad as mail fraud in some terms. Western Union will also most likely hold money transfers for the person in question until the problem is resolved (too late for your cash at the moment, but you may yet get it back). The trick is; they must be contacted by the authorities in an ongoing investigation for this to happen.

Remember that EBay agreement you entered into? They revised it to make it *even more* legally palatable. You are entering into a binding contract to sell something. I am not sure what can be done here as it varies state to state.

If they do *a lot* of selling, they may be subject to ICC (Interstate Commerce Commission) rules. They would have to sell an awful lot though, and I am not personally sure if that requires the transfer of “physical” goods. Still it may bear some deeper investigation.

It also varies by dollar amount. Now these methods are not just good for accounts but also the virtual real estate. I think that most scammers on EBay forget that most of the time the cash is in the mail, crossing state lines, or going over the wire. These were just a few things I thought of while talking to my friend (he is a County Prosecutor). Oh, as always, keep a record of all correspondence between yourself and the other party.

The Smiling Bandit

OH, ON SECOND THOUGHT JUST BURN IT ALL TO THE GROUND [Author: wirehead]

Jinx, who is too stoned out of his mind to update his own page, writes in:

I thought I was the only asshole who was up all night lately. Nice to know fellow insomniacs reign around the country.

Been gutsy shit you posted lately. I’m sure you’ve been shit on by all the people who love counselors, volunteer programs, gms or whatever. You are on the money though, its sad how many people refuse to see anything because they would rather not believe people they trust could do such things.

Anyway, on your proposal, it just won’t work. You can’t have volunteers running around with ANY sort of special ability. You would never be able to screen them out well enough to keep out the bad apples. With all the corruption that has gone on, the entire volunteer program needs to go bye-bye. All of it. Seers, Counselors, companions, etc. There is no other way to do it.

Furthermore, GMs are no longer allowed to play UO. If they wish to work for OSI they cannot play the game. Period. In addition, they are not to scoialize in any manner with any players. All their duties in game are to be handled the same way any customer support staff handles a call. They will not talk to players except about game issues. If I call up a tech support rep at Dell, we don’t discuss what each of us is wearing or if we want to get together sometime. Its got to be no different in game. There has to be no friendships or socializing. None.

Unfair you say? Perhaps blessed buildings wouldnt exist? Problems running quests? Too fucking bad. We tried it that way already and it didn’t work. While we are at, please spare me the “there is no proof” nonsense. The whole Darwin fiasco proved this stuff can happen. People are kidding themselves if they think these types of sexual hijinks haven’t happened. The internet is the perfect medium for this. Without making too much of a generalization, many lonely or less-social people spend many hours online. Sound like those counselors who play 80 hrs a week and have phone sex with gms? Yep. Because of this temptation and (unproven, but still they happened) the fact that many GMs are young men who (yep) also played UO or spent alot of their time online you HAVE to eliminate as much of the opprtunity as possible. The only way to do this, is to stop all volunteer programs and limit all GM communication to in-game only.

As much as I would love to see this happen, its just not going to. Despite what you hear, its much cheaper and easier for OSI to have scads of volunteers to do much of their support work. Since they refuse to lose the whole program, the next best thing to do is slice it up. EVERYONE who is a counselor reapplies for a job. There are no more shard leaders or senior counselors. Everyone is just a counselor. They lose all powers except teleportation. No more jailings. No more squelching. No Tele-storms. You are there to answer questions and instruct players. No socializing in IRC. If you want to have a free account, you work for it. As a matter of fact, no more IRC. We have an in-game chat and it must be used. Eliminate as much of the “elitism” as possible. Eliminate as much “specialness” as possible.

There are no seers. None. Either make a real quest engine or hire 3 IGMS for each shard. They have a quota of events to run each month. They remain in character and have NO socialization outside the game or out of character. IGMs cannot play UO outside the workplace either.

The entire point of this scpiel is to stop the diaster that has reigned over this game for two years. All you people who wnat to tell me how wonderful the counselor program has been can blow me, because if it worked the way it was meant to WE WOULDNT HAVE THESE PROBLEMS. The counselor program was meant to help people not meant to be a way for people to further their own ends. Believe whatever you want to believe, but open your eyes enough to see it isn’t working. We’ve closed our eyes to so much OSI bullshit for so long we should be ashamed of ourselves. Here’s your chance to right whats been wrong. Don’t be quiet on these issues anymore.

Damn that got long…I’m drowning in pain medicine so Im too out of it to update the site. Those are my thoughts, take them as you will. Keep the fires burning Lum.

-Jinx@home, nearly unconcious.

HOW TO FIX THE SUPPORT PROGRAM – A MODEST PROPOSAL [Author: wirehead]

Never let it be said that I didn’t offer constructive suggestions.

First off, a post-mortem on the weekend’s events. Unfortunately, the story ex-SRC Zaronia sent in and added on to by another ex-SRC rapidly entered the realm of Jerry Springer, with tales of whom boffed who for what. I edited out most of the names invovled. I didn’t edit out enough.

Americans in particular have a problem when it comes to sex. We pretend to be moral and prudish about the subject, but whenever it comes up it tends to overwhelm everything it touches; including here some very real issues that have been raised about the support program. There are more than a few similarities to the Starr Report here; another example of the prurient nature of its subject matter overwhelming any actual fact-finding it may have done regarding wrongdoing by the Executive Branch. No one cared that Clinton warped the Presidency to protect his own perjury; they were too busy tut-tutting over Monica Lewinsky’s creative use of Altoids mints. Thus Clinton remains and Starr is gone. Welcome to the 90’s.

So let’s get away from all that (and no impassioned defenses from Clintonoids, please). What we’ve learned this weekend:

– There is no way to prove anything. Short of staking out OSI and going through logs, the only way we conclusively KNOW of wrongdoing is when, as with Nighthawk’s tower being deleted earlier, there is conclusive, concrete evidence that cannot be otherwise explained.

– There are serious problems with the Support program. Blind defenders aside, I have recieved far too many reports from far too many people for them all to be sour grapes of those cast aside. Believe this or not at your leisure.

– The responsibility for cleaning up this mess lies largely with Origin. We as a community can demand change; we cannot actually enforce it.

– Philisophical disagreements that I may have aside, the Support program is not going away.

Well then. To quote Lenin, what is to be done? Here’s my suggestions. Take them, leave them, laugh at them, whatever.

COMPANIONS – This seems to have been originally a bone thrown to those too young to enter the Counselor program. I would question whether or not it is really needed. Do we truly have a massive influx of new users, at least on the American servers, to justify an entire group of people dedicated to hand-holding them through the game.

I really think Companions should be folded into the Counselor program. It adds a layer of bureaucracy which is not needed. If they do remain, they should have NO powers whatsoever. They are, as advertised, advanced players willing to be Big Brother to a newbie. Nothing more, nothing less.

COUNSELORS – Counselors were advertised as an Online Help System for Ultima Online. Then they were made into something more, sort of a Bright Cheerful Blue Anti-Macro Police Force. This is unnecessary and in fact very harmful to the Counselor program. Counselors should, again, be viewed as a means of obtaning help on game mechanics and a conduit, through the much-maligned Origin IRC system, to higher-ups should intervention be necessary in a given situation. They should not be able to interact with players save speech. I. E. no jailing players, no teleporting players, no otherwise affecting the game environment. They are the UO equivalent of selecting “Help” from the main menu.

To avoid the appearance of favoritism, Counselors should not have any characters on the shard which they counsel on, without exception.

SENIOR COUNSELORS (SRC’s/ASRC’s/SLC’s) – These should, in addition to their administrative role within the volunteer system, be the lowest level in the hierarchy with the ability to effect the game environment in a limited fashion. They should be able to teleport players from point to point (“Help, I am stuck” calls), telestorm out players who are being disruptive, and jail repeatedly disruptive players pending a visit from a GM. There is no need for any further interaction with the player environment.

SRCs and above should not have ANY characters save on Volunteer or Test Center. By dint of their accepting an administrative role in the game, they give up being a part of it as a participant.

CUSTOMER SUPPORT REPRESENTATIVES (GM’s) – These are the first (and only) level of paid online support provided by Origin, and as such the only ones entrusted with the ability to radically affect the play environment.

They should be the ones handling the majority of player-interaction-gone-bad calls. When doing so they MUST appear in person. They MUST always remember and ACT as though they are SERVING the CLIENT, aka the player. They are not gods. They are not parents. They do not appear from offscreen and deliver lectures to their errant children. They are Technical Support Representatives. This requires a paradigm shift from what we’ve seen in the past. It is necessary if faith is to be restored in Origin’s ability to maintain its own system.

Needless to say, GMs should not have any characters in game except for Volunteer or Test Center.

GM’s should not during the ordinary course of the day have to ever affect the game environment (creating gold, deleting and/or placing houses, changing character stats, etc). Those abilities should be locked out of the GM client, and only activated by the lead support representative on duty when such actions need to be taken. It would be the lead support representative’s duty to log each such occurance and be prepared to justify each action taken. The virtual worlds represented by the shards have real-world value to the players within, and the responsibility for making changes to them must be carefully controlled. GM Darwin should NEVER have had the opportunity to spontaneously generate houses and gold for resale. The fact that he was actually able to, much less the other alleged abuses we’ve seen this weekend, bespeaks a profound lack of supervision within Origin. It is hoped that this is in the process of being rectified.

Will all of these prevent abuses like we’ve read about this weekend? Of course not. They are confidence building measures. And confidence is what is sorely needed right now. It’s my opinion that the above would constitute a sound building block upon which to start.

As for the current members of the support program. It has been pointed out that all the main players in this weekend’s little melodrama are all EX members of the support program, and not without reason. It is my opinion that in fact, currently the Counselor program is more professionally run than the GMs. We are seeing changes. I expect we will see more.

There is one group that I haven’t touched upon in the above – the Interest/Seer program. They have the ability to totally destroy the game. And there’s no way to avoid it without destroying the Seer program. What can we do about this?

Another subject, for another day.