Monday, December 7, 2009

Criminal activity on Stardoll

Stardoll allows users to steal from other users. Most of the victims are minors. This has got to stop. If you are a member of Stardoll, you can help. I will let you know more about how in my next post.

For over a year I have expressed my concern to Stardoll. I have used their reporting tools and sent emails demanding action. I have reached higher-ups in the organization. Some changes have been made. But not enough. Scammers are still operating, and very little is done to protect girls from becoming victims.

Even though I am adult, I love playing on Stardoll. I enjoy the creative and the social aspects of the site. My medoll is madmadeleine and at this time you can visit my suite. I hope I get to keep my account, and that there will not be reprisals. There are many positive things about Stardoll and I don't want it to go away. I am afraid if I sit by and let things continue, something bad, like what happened to JuicyCampus, is going to happen and Stardoll will no longer exist.

You can see a video on YouTube where at minute 24 the CEO, Mattias Miksche, admits there is hacking and gaming the system on Stardoll, and then he changes the subject. It is my belief that very little real hacking occurs. Most young girls are not writing code to infiltrate other girls accounts. Instead, they use the tools of all con artists and predators: flattery, promises and lies.

Since most of the stealing on the website is the result of scams, I call these girls "scammers", though many mislabel them as "hackers." The use of the terms "hacker" and "hacking" is inaccurate and obfuscates the problem and the nature of the crimes.

At this time, I estimate that there are thousands of girls on the website who are stealing from younger and more naive members. The perception on the site is that scammers get away with their crimes. Since there seems to be little or no negative consequences for stealing, many girls are willing to do it. I'm sure that most of the girls who are scammers learned how to do it by being scammed. It is easy to do, involves very little risk, and the payoff is great.

Most scammers get to keep what they steal. Occasionally a scammer gets deleted from the site. But she will have more than one account. She will be running her scam from multiple accounts that she opened as well as from the accounts she stole from other girls. She also keeps a separate account into which she can funnel all the most desirable stolen goods for her personal enjoyment. One that is not linked with the accounts she uses to steal. That is the only account she cares about. The other accounts are disposable. She can always open or steal more.

There are simple ways to eliminate many of these scammers. Stardoll could block the IP addresses of the girls they catch scamming. They could cross-reference the email accounts they use, and when one is linked to a scam, they could eliminate all the accounts, not just the one with the posted scam.

Because Stardoll does not do enough to stop scammers, it is my opinion that they are morally complicit in these crimes. The way the site is set up, Stardoll makes money because of these crimes. More money than if there were no crime. Perhaps the people who are making decisions about site monitoring are little better than the scammers they allow to proliferate. It is expensive to monitor the site with real people, instead of with just text editing software. So far, Stardoll has chosen the cheap and lazy route. But this route is going to cost them more in the end. They need to step up.

As for making money, this is how Stardoll benefits from these petty crimes. Scammers use the broadcast feature to advertise and reach new victims. Since Stardoll charges 5 stardollars for each broadcast, they make money. A little bit of money, but it adds up. They charge a 1 stardollar commission on every item that is sold from one account to another, so Stardoll makes a small amount of money each time a thief takes over an account and makes multiple transactions to move items and stardollars. These are minor revenue streams that result from tolerating cybercrime on the site. In addition each scammer has to pay a fee to be a Superstar, so she can move stolen property. Many of the victims open new accounts and purchase the same or similar items that were stolen from them. If a victim manages to convince Stardoll to return her stolen account back, by the time she regains possession, her suite and closet have been stripped of everything of value including her stardollars. From what I have learned, Stardoll never returns stolen stardollars or stolen items to victims. Though these items are vitual things, clothing, furniture, and decor, they were paid for with stardollars, which cost real money. If the victim wants to have nice things, she must purchase more stardollars and buy them again. The overall lesson is that for Stardoll, crime pays.

I started a club over a year ago, advice4newbies. Since I started posting information about scammers the membership has increased. Many victims have joined my club and asked me to personally help them try to get their accounts back. I do not help them directly, but I provide them with information and support. I tell them how to contact Stardoll and what they will need to do. I have posted information about scams, cheats, real hackers, predators and safety in the club discussions and in my medoll's presentation and starblog.

I spend a lot of time helping kids. Time that I could be enjoying myself, or time that I should be doing something else. I do not live in a vacuum. Whenever I am on the site I can find scammers running their con games. I try to warn girls, but there is only so much I can do. The site should be monitored by people who care. People who can spot this stuff and put an end to it. The people at Stardoll have many more tools than I do to discover and eradicate wrongdoing. However, it seems as if the management has not chosen to put time and money into this. With time, money and access I could do a much better job.

Monitoring should be a priority on a site that has so many kids and teens on it. There are other problems. The language filters do not completely prevent kids posting websites and email addresses. There is some bullying and dirty talk. I have not personally come across any predators, but there are rumors about someone that tells girls that she is a casting agent for The Suite Life on Deck and has girls send her photos and personal information. If Stardoll does not step up and increase monitoring on the site, they are courting potential ruin.

These seem like petty crimes. But they add up. I know of one instance when over 3000 stardollars was stolen from an account. I pay $25 for 1200 stardollars. If figured at that rate the hacker got away with over $60.

One more thing that Stardoll probably does not want their advertisers or investors to know. A lot less actual users are on the site than Stardoll reports. Because of all the multiple accounts owned by the same people, the figures are significantly lower. Maybe Stardoll is reluctant to delete accounts because they want to support their inflated figures. I am not sure what they tell their advertisers, but I googled Stardoll and found a site that said that there are only about 1.4 American users going to the site. Hmmm.

If you want to do something about this, want more information or would like a personal guided tour of the seedy side of Stardoll, feel free to contact me. Thanks for reading.

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