Saturday, September 3, 2011
Gifting has always been a touchy subject amongst the playerbase, with gifters and giftees testing their luck against the Terms of Service (TOS).
Me, personally, I don't use gifters. Although my real-life checkbook wishes I would, I just can't, and won't do it. We're all well aware that gifting-for-gold is a violation of the TOS, but yet it happens daily. I'd be willing to bet that a small number, maybe 15% of the SparkCash buying playerbase funds 80% of the level 100+ players. As sad, and maybe appalling, as that number sounds, it's with good reason.
Fiesta is a free-to-play game, but it's also a pay-to-win game too. The higher you progress, the more you have to spend to keep up with everyone else, it's a sad truth. In order to make money, you have to spend money, whether that be in-game gold or real life dollars, that's reality.
Knowing this, and the competitive and materialistic side to all of us, scammers will constantly prey on our wants and needs by offering to sell us giftable items from the cash shop for in-game funds. Since such dealings are a violation of the TOS, there is no clean way for the transaction to occur. Either the gifter gifts first and risks getting scammed out of his SparkCash, or the buyer pays first and risks getting scammed out of his gold. Both transactions are perilous.
These leads to another problem: Charge Backs. Working in retail, I have a pretty good knowledge of how charge backs work. Basically a consumer receives their statement in the mail and sees a transaction that they believe is in error so they call the credit card company and dispute the charge. The credit card company will immediately side with the consumer and place the charge back on the vendor. It is then up to the vendor to furnish all proof that the transaction was legitimate. However, when working with online transactions, the problem is far worse and the burden of proof is far more difficult to build. Paypal works much the same way, they will side with the consumer.
As you can see from above, the system is great when it's not being used fraudulently. It is these abusers that lead to so much unnecessary grief on other players and extra work for the OutSpark team. At this point, I don't know if OS even fights the charge backs or they just eat them and place bans on the accounts.
What I would like to know is if OS acts when they see a pattern of behavior across a certain account or IP address and if they then take action.
As far as I know, OutSpark's method of dealing with charge backs is to ban all accounts that accessed that SparkCash. The gifting account will receive a ban, as will all other accounts that received gifts. Because OutSpark will not receive the money from the sale of that SparkCash because of the charge back, their methods are understandable and justified. OutSpark will release the ban on your account if either the amount of SparkCash charged back is paid back in full or the non-used items are returned/deleted.
So as you can see, and as many players have worried, the system, as-is, can be used to further grief players by sending gifts to anyone and then placing a charge back on the transaction. Since we no longer receive email confirmation of receiving a gift and finding out who gifted us, this can be particularly problematic. We also do not have the ability to reject gifts. So what should you do to protect yourself?
Question everything. If you see something odd in your premium inventory that you know for certain you didn't pay for, do not activate the item, instead send in a ticket. The CSR team should be able to tell you who the gift was from. If that person is unknown to you, you can also ask the CSR team to delete the item from your inventory safeguarding your account. If you've already activated the item and moved it from the premium inventory into your regular inventory, you put yourself at risk.
The safety and security of your account is your responsibility. By opening yourself up to gifters and violating the TOS, you become extremely vulnerable. Scammers are well aware that you can't open a ticket complaining that you got scammed in a gift-for-gold transaction since that in itself is illegal. Be aware.