Last week, I wrote a post discussing Leszek Lisowki’s experience in being scammed out of a substantial amount of Steam keys. I hope it has opened up your eyes to the type of people out there that make a living tricking indie developers into giving them Steam keys and then selling them on third-party markets, resulting in you never seeing a dime from the transaction. It’s low and sickening to say the least, and I think the topic is so important and vital to your success as an indie developer, that I want to touch on the topic a little more today.
Brian Rowe, a PR specialist for the awesome Evolve PR must be thinking the same thing, as he wrote a great post over at Gamasutra about the same thing. He gives some useful pieces of advice for avoiding these dreaded Steam key scams and find out for yourself if the individual requesting a key is legitimate or a fake.
I’ve also added a few tips of my own too, so without further ado, here’s what you need to know.
Quick tip: If someone claims to be a YouTube personality, ask them to message you via their YouTube channel. We covered this in our previous post, so if you want more information, go here.
Identify the legitimacy of the email address
If you receive an email from someone requesting a Steam key, the first thing you should do is copy and paste the email address into Google, place quotation marks around the address, then search. This will give you only the search results that match 100%. If you find the address matches those of a Twitch account or a YouTube channel, then know that it’s probably safe to send them a Steam key.
Be sure to check the pages the email address is associated with, though. For instance, if the email address is linked to a YouTube account full of spammy videos, you may want to think twice about sending them a Steam key.
Request to speak with them face-to-face
It may sound like overkill, but it’s not. Request to speak with the person requesting the Steam key face-to-face, and invite them to ask any questions they may have about your indie game. Chance are, if the person is legitimate, they will take you up on the offer and actually post the footage in one of their YouTube/Twitch videos.
Of course, if you have dozens of key requests this may not be a viable option. But if you only have a few? Try this technique to weed out the scammers from the legitimate personalities.
Contact an editor
Rowe brings up a great point about another tactic these scammers use:
“We also have to deal with a fair number of requests from people purporting to write for media outlets — often from places like Russia or Greece or Croatia,” says Rowe. “And these can also be quite difficult to navigate, but are usually relatively easy to spot. Most media outlets should have their own domain, so the easiest way to verify these requests is to ask the individual to have an editor vouch for them, i.e. send an email from the applicable domain and verify that the request is legitimate.”
It’s as simple as that. If they comply and the editor replies to you, then great! Just be sure to double-check the editor’s email address as well, as the scammer may also attempt to pose as an editor. Also, be sure to see if the domain name is actually legitimate by visiting the website and browsing it for a bit. Scammers love to create fake entities to trick their victims, so do your homework before sending out keys.
Don’t think that just because there are scammers out there that wants to leech off your hard work that there are not legitimate people out there interested in your indie game. There are – you just have to weed out the good from the bad. Lots of people out there would love nothing more than to get your game for free and give it a review, so send out as many review codes as you wish: just be sure you’re sending them to the right people.