Throughout my existence in Second Life, I’ve seen numerous spam messages being disseminated over group chat, promising “free Lindens”. A few days ago, I even saw one such topic get spammed in the “Second Life” subforum of the Avatar Social Network’s (review coming up soon) forum, and a quick search on Google provided quite a few results, some of them fairly recent (August 2014). According to those behind these messages, there are “cheats” that can “generate” more L$ at will.
I’ll be blunt about these “free, infinite Lindens” schemes: They are SCAMS, operated by con artists, and you should NEVER fall for them. For the benefit of group and forum members, these messages and their posters get deleted almost immediately by the moderators. However, it’s certain that some people have fallen, and still fall for these scams. If no one fell for them, there would be no incentive for the scammers to still keep looking for victims. So, a few things need to be explained to anyone that may be tempted.
Games where some sort of virtual currency is used are generally divided in two categories:
- Games that are primarily run locally (with networked play capabilities), like Diablo I, Caesar 3 and 4, etc.;
- Games that are exclusively run over the internet (this includes MMOs like World of Warcraft, Ikariam, Everquest, etc).
Let’s take an example of a game of the first category. For these games, there are cheats that either find out where the game stores the information about the money you have and modify it (for instance, changing the value from 1,500 gold pieces to 1,500,000 gold pieces), or modify how this money is generated and spent. For instance, an old game I used to play in my early teens, Caesar 3, had a file named c3_model.txt. In this file, each kind of building and activity was documented, and you could see how much money you would spend by making this building or performing this activity, how desirable it would be for someone to live near this building, how much money you could make from something, etc. By editing this file, you can, for instance, make activities like clearing land or building roads, plazas and gardens generate rather than cost money.
In the second category, we have MMOs. Now, even if there is information about your character’s virtual currency balance stored in your computer, and even if you edit it, when you log in to the MMO, your computer will communicate with the server; the information stored locally will be compared to the information on the server, and guess which information will be ignored? You guessed correctly. The information that will be eventually used is the one that was stored on the server. And since you have no access to the server, you can’t cheat.
If cheating in MMOs is nigh-on impossible, in SL it’s even harder. In MMOs like Ikariam or Travian, there are things you can do to generate money and resources. The larger your city (or cities), the more citizens you have, and so you can generate more gold from their taxes over time. And then you can more citizens to mine iron from a mine, or produce wine from the vineyards, and then you can sell these resources to other players for gold. Or you can finish quests and get money for this. Or you can find treasure.
In Second Life, however, there’s no such thing. Back in the days when you could camp out somewhere to raise traffic for a venue and get paid for sitting on a chair, you didn’t generate Lindens; you were paid Lindens by the owner of the place, who had been paid this money from his or her patrons, who had in turn either been paid this money for jobs they did, or received it as a weekly stipend for having premium accounts, or had bought this money from Linden Lab by exchanging RL money for virtual money. So there you have it. In SL, most of the virtual money is exchanged. Yes, LL does generate L$, like a country’s mint prints money, but who has absolute control over how much money is generated? In RL, it’s your “friendly” Central Bank. In SL, it’s the Lab’s staff. Management tells them “issue X amount of L$” and they do it, to maintain a certain USD/L$ balance that has been determined as profitable for LL. So, leaving other MMOs aside, in SL there is only one authority that determines the availability of money, and this is Linden Lab. There is absolutely no way for any of these “cheats” to work.
Unless… Unless these Lindens that are promised to you have been stolen from compromised accounts. Here’s the issue, though: A user who suddenly sees they’re a few hundred or a few thousand L$ short of what they knew they had is liable to report this. LL will then investigate what happened, they will track the suspicious transactions down, and the money will be returned to its rightful owner. As for the person that received the stolen money, they risk getting a nice ban, which will be very richly deserved. The thieves will be banned too, but their accounts are typically disposable.
But really, besides the risk of losing your account if you get into such a shady scheme, there’s another risk, and a question that arises from it. Why would you trust someone who would steal money from others with the promise that they’ll siphon some of it to you? Have you considered that these “cheats” that you will have to download and install on your computer to give you “infinite, free Lindens” are actually malicious software whose real purpose is to surreptitiously gather your log-in data, which will then be used by the scammers for their own purposes? If they’re willing to steal from others, what makes you think they won’t steal from you?