I expect I would have lived in ignorance for a long time if it hadn’t been for one thread that appeared on the Steam forums. Some folks reported that Worlds of Magic was available for purchase for about 15$ at G2A.com. I was sure that something wasn’t right as the price has been set up everywhere to be exactly the same. There might have been a buck or two of difference due to the currency exchange rate, but it was hard to imagine that someone was willing to sell the game for such a low price. I had no choice but to take a look.
I went to the store and bought a key using my credit card. Then I discovered that the key was one of those sent out to youtubers. Initially I thought that the guy had taken three keys, kept one for himself and sold two of them (the account on G2A was from Bulgaria), but after I checked it was clear that the guy had received only one key. It took me a while before I realized what is going on. You will find the explanation below.
I took a deep breath and began to thoroughly check all the emails that had been sent to me. Most of them were gmail accounts and had a single letter or number difference between the email name and the youtube channel name. Sometimes it was some popular regional mailing domain (for eastern Europe mostly). So double check it as many of people I know are really using the Gmail, so before judging please double check just to be sure.
We had to make a very difficult decision. In future, every youtuber that applied for a STEAM key would have to send us a message using their YouTube channel.
The first and second did so, as well as the third. So, I began to think that maybe I had exaggerated. Alas, that was not the case.
From about 20 additional requests, I received only two youtube channel confirmations.
So, as it turned out, roughly 70% of the keys we had given out were taken under false pretenses, or to use a more direct term, stolen. It left us asking ourselves: Were we really so blind and naive?
As it turned out, the answer was “Yes”, but we’re not alone.
The very next day I thought it might be worth looking into the scale of the scam, personally. I took one of the messages I had received from the fake youtubers and edited it a bit. It took me all of about 3 minutes. Then I created a Gmail account, which might have taken another 3 minutes. After that I launched the STEAM client and began checking out New releases and coming soon.
I sent out 46 emails, which took me about two hours in total. In reply, I got 16 keys for 15 games (worth more than 400 USD).
Allow me to underline this: I spent 3 hours sending out emails to almost 50 developers simply asking them for a Steam key, claiming that I was a youtuber with 50k subscribers. In return, I received Steam keys worth over 400 USD. This means I could have theoretically made close to 150 bucks an hour.
Imagine what I could accomplish if I were working on it 8 hours a day. Then multiply that by imagining that I sent out 10 fake emails to each developer. Just go to the auctions and see how many of your games are being traded.