THE BIGGEST SCAM
Though my account of events thus far has repeatedly boasted of how I pulled off the biggest scam in Eve's history, that is an exaggeration. In fact, I was not the most successful scam artist in Eve. Not by a long shot. While scouting out the forums for my lottery plan, I had come across a far bigger scam, one that made me look like a pickpocket by comparison. But after all, I did say I would tell the story of the biggest heist in Eve's history. So I shall.
The scam I came across merely aroused my suspicions at first, but as I looked more deeply into it, the evidence became clear. It was indeed a scam, and it likely had stolen over one hundred billion isk--perhaps several hundreds of billions more--and few are yet aware of it. One person who does know the truth is the person who, upon reading my account thus far, must have chuckled each time I spoke of my thirty billions as the greatest heist.
At the time, I considered exposing his scam, but ultimately decided against it. If this particular organization was revealed as a scam, it would lead to a loss of confidence in investment opportunities across the entire galaxy, including my own. Thus, my own desire to scam outweighed the jealousies aroused by my discovery that I only executed the second-biggest scam in Eve. But the reality was that my scam and the biggest scam were not in real competition. The biggest scammer had three big advantages over me:
First, I only had the ability to create characters "born" in 2006, and thus would be figured for an alt if I ever created a business. By contrast, the biggest scammer had a character born in 2003 and a fairly well-established reputation, so far as they go.
Second, I could create at maximum three characters, and all of them would be easily seen as alts. Bringing in more 2006 characters would cause me to lose credibility, not to gain it. By contrast, the biggest scammer had several alts, many of them years old. He used them to create his own corporation so that, unlike me, he would not have to labor under the flag of a n00b corp.
Third, he had artistic ability. His website and logos looked professional, while mine looked pretty lousy. The connection between credibility and the professional look of the scam's website are actually quite strong, even though obviously one's ability to manipulate Photoshop is entirely unrelated to one's Eve playing ability.
Operating under my limitations, then, I had done very well as a scammer. So I could not be too envious of my superior counterpart. But who was he, you ask? And how did I determine that he was scamming? And why do I write of this in the first place? Let us continue.
THE EVE INTERGALACTIC BANK
The biggest scam in Eve's history is currently being operated by a character named Cally. He runs the "Eve Intergalactic Bank", the total assets of which are unknown except to Cally, but likely exceed one hundred billion isk. In many ways, the Eve Intergalactic Bank is very similar to Currin Trading. Like Currin Trading, the Bank encourages people to transfer isk to the owner's account, and in return he promises to deliver returns after a certain period of time. As with Currin Trading (and all pyramid schemes), the Bank attracts an increasingly large number of investors, providing Cally with the isk he needs to make the interest payments. One critical difference is that Cally does not actually pay out either the invested isk or the interest--he only withdraws them upon request.
The returns Cally offers are quite low--only a few percent per month. This prevents the pyramid scheme from being too obvious, as the returns seem feasible. Like me, Cally was clearly concerned about being accused of being another Morbor, who made the original pyramid scheme in the Eve universe and promised to double isk in a short period. But Cally also used the low interest to his advantage in another way, by offering higher returns to people who invested more. For example, one might only get 4% returns if they invested small amounts, but you would (theoretically) get higher returns if you invest a billion isk. Also, Cally only allows you to earn your interest if your isk is placed in the Bank for 28 consecutive days; this prevents people from withdrawing isk too often; large fluctuations are a danger to any growing pyramid. To further shore up his pyramid, Cally only offers returns on investments of a billion or more isk if the investments remain in the Bank for three consecutive months. As added security, Cally does not normally even pay out the interest. Instead, the "dividends" are kept in your account which, again, you cannot access without Cally withdrawing it for you.
Of course, there is no logical reason why Cally should be able to generate larger returns if your individual investment is larger; the Bank's earning potential is not significantly altered if your investment takes his assets up to 100 billion 10 million compared to 100 billion 50 million. Nor is there a logical reason why a billion isk investment must remain in for three months instead of the usual one month. If it were a legitimate business, these rules would make no sense. But they make perfect sense for a pyramid scheme.
To further attract clients and prove his legitimacy, Cally also offers a number of small perks. For example, people who have invested enough isk in his Bank may take out a loan, or put insurance on certain assets. These are really just trinkets, but they work. And they are not very risky, since any perks Cally doles out pale in comparison to the size of the assets he has under lock and key. But these perks reflect Cally's penchant for small projects, such as his unpopular Eve Intergalactic Bank Games project, along with other frivolous sideshows. But they do serve as effective advertisements.
Using the three key advantages I described earlier, Cally started his Bank in, coincidentally enough, March of 2006, at the same time I launched Currin Trading. But Cally's Bank shares with Currin Trading one other, far more important, characteristic: it is a solo operation. Cally used a number of alts to join his "corporation" and act as his employees. For obvious reasons, a corp with a CEO and visible employees who were born in 2003 has a lot more credibility than a single 2006 alt in a n00b corp who claims to run a business. My scam only succeeded due to its Byzantine machinations, which allowed it to bypass the normal breeding ground of scams: the forums. But with his "reputable" character(s), Cally managed to win over the denizens of the Eve forums. Despite running a Bank with all the key ingredients of a pyramid scheme, Cally has thus far remained almost immune to the flak of skeptics. In fact, Cally's Bank is widely seen as the best example of a "legitimate" Eve business. Using the Eve forums as his personal playpen, Cally has effortlessly attracted investors who easily number in the hundreds.
Though Cally depended largely upon his three advantages that I could not myself replicate, I must also give him a lot of credit for the ingenuity with which he crafted his scam and the way he deftly bypassed the problem of forum skeptics. From one scammer to another, Cally proved himself worthy. His particular breed of pyramids placed him in an excellent position: the lower the returns, the longer the pyramid can expand before it collapses.
But as I knew from my experiences with Currin Trading, being the single person running a phantom organization has both its strengths and weaknesses. When I first started investigating Cally's Bank, I initially hoped that it really was a legitimate organization, since that would mean I was unparalleled as a scammer. But the signs of the pyramid scheme and its similarities with my own program were far too pronounced to ignore. I quickly suspected that Cally was running a solo operation and that his employees were really his alts. It was a simple matter to confirm this; I simply did research on all of his employees' previous forum posts and discovered, as I expected, that they all shared the same writing style. It was a dead giveaway, a distinctly amateurish mistake.
Cally's writing was the one aspect of his operation that I found the most unimpressive. Cally's run-on sentences, tortured doubletalk (eliciting painful confusion from those on the forums trying to understand his explanations of how the Bank works), distaste for punctuation, common spelling errors (naturally, all of Cally's employees have trouble spelling the same words), and the general sloppiness do not befit the arch-scammer. But that's another problem with running a solo operation, as I found with my graphic design--if you personally don't have the talent for something, your entire "organization" does without. Cally has recently found this to be true as well, as he explained that his website's coding was going along slowly because he was not very good at it--a revealing admission from someone who should be able to find an "employee" to do the job.
After confirming my suspicions that Cally's Bank was run only by himself and his alts, I pondered how long it could last. After all, the human operator must surely experience at least one occasion where he has an unplanned absence from his computer. This is what happened with Morbor in the original pyramid scheme (he apparently got sick for a few days). For my part, I was able to avoid this problem; my pyramid only collapsed because CCP accidentally banned me just as the petition system was being overhauled. Would something of this nature happen to Cally, leaving his pyramid unattended for a time?
Researching further, I found that it already had. In early June, operations in the Eve Intergalactic Bank grinded to a halt because the human operator behind Cally temporarily lost access to his normal computer. Apparently, Cally's human operator went on a business trip of some kind and could only use a computer incapable of running Eve. (Most likely, the computer used a graphics card without "Transform and Lighting" capability--a common issue in computers not designed for gaming. If Cally attempted to install and run Eve on such a computer, the program would only appear as a blurry red mess.)
Since Cally could not run Eve for a few days, all of his "bank tellers" vanished from sight and no business could be done. But even a low-grade computer can at least run the forums, so Cally had his alts stop by and explain the problem. His alts explained that Cally was on a business trip and could not play Eve. (Why Cally would tell this to his employees rather than explaining it on the forums personally is another question.) But Cally's absence only explained why he personally was absent. Why did all of his employees simultaneously disappear, too? Cally's alts explained that they, too, were unfortunately all suffering from real-life disturbances as well.
This fiasco made it abundantly clear that Cally's employees were his own alts, thus proving the entire Bank was a scam. But nothing more came of this. Cally returned and the crisis was averted. That Cally's pyramid did not collapse after such a dramatic and public unmasking is a testiment to his investors' loyalty--and the selective muteness of the forum skeptics.
And what is taking place now? Cally has recently announced plans to expand his business further, into an alliance of several different corporations. To fund these, Cally is graciously accepting another one hundred billion isk worth of investors who want to embark with him on his grand journey. Cally could well be entering the final stages of his scam. After all, even Cally does not have enough alts to run several different corporations. On the other hand, Cally may declare that he will allow his "employees" to create new alts to run these corporations, thus explaining why his corporations are filled with characters born in 2006.
As for me, my own job is now complete. I wrote what I have learned in order to reveal the secrets of the Eve Intergalactic Bank and to expose Cally as a fraud. Despite being the greatest scammer in Eve's history, he has made slip-ups before and will likely do so in the future. Anyone who reads this and takes my words to heart will be able to confirm what I have already proven.
Though I found myself unwilling to give up the loot of my own heist, I take solace in the fact that people who read the truth about Cally's Bank will be able to liberate their own isk from a greater scam than mine--assuming, of course, Cally allows the withdrawal. And since Cally's Bank--considered the bedrock of the "legitimate" Eve businesses--is a scam, perhaps people will realize that they all are scams, and will not attempt to invest in the scams which are yet to come.
Scams are the only certainty of the future. I do not know what the result of my writing will be. Perhaps enough readers will withdraw their funds from the Bank to end Cally's pyramid scheme. Perhaps I will thus be responsible for more than thirty billion isk being saved from a scam, redeeming myself thereby: the person who created the second-biggest scam and took down the biggest. Perhaps Cally will see the withdrawals taking place and refuse to allow any more. Perhaps people will ignore this, take their chances with Cally, and hope that all will be well. They will eventually find themselves as disappointed as my own investors.
I don't know what the future will bring, because I am not the one who will make the decisions that lead to it. The next chapter, dear reader, will be written by you.