Trick or Treat, Scammers!

It’s that time of year again – the leaves are changing, the air is getting colder, and everyone is getting their costumes ready for Halloween!

But mischief is also in the air…

We’ve been enjoying watching Where Shadows Slumber take off on the App Store since we launched last month. However, not everyone is happy for our success. Some people have tried to scam us out of our hard-earned game by trying to get free promo codes even though they aren’t journalists, YouTubers, streamers, or influencers.

Apple doesn’t want us giving these codes out to regular customers! That’s why you only get 100 at a time. They even give you a massive contract that lays out what the codes are for, specifically so you don’t fall for people’s stories. And while I understand we’ll never be able to do anything about software piracy, there’s no reason I need to fall for cheap tricks…

So in the spirit of Halloween, here’s two ridiculous stories of would-be scammers attempting to pull one over on yours truly. Share this funny article with your friends, even if they’ve never heard of Where Shadows Slumber! I think anyone who works in customer service will find this hilarious.

operation_open_heart_281071147227529

Scammer #1 – The $8.00 Heart Operation

Our first scam attempt comes from Salama Youssef, who emailed us at contact@GameRevenant.com with this touching copy/pasted tale:

Oct 8, 2018, 6:15 PM

Hello,

I always have an appreciation for Where Shadows Slumber application….

You can offer me a promo code for (Where Shadows Slumber for iphone) application because currently i have lost all my money on the Health of my family (my father suffered a heart operation that cost more than 8.0639 US Dollar (USD) so I am forced to tell your team that my situation finaciere can not allow me and my family pay the rent)

Sorry for the trouble I have caused for you, but, sincerely, I will be very happy if you discharge me from this sum.

God Bless You

Even if we believe this sob story about an $8.00 heart operation, can someone explain to me why this man needs a free copy of Where Shadows Slumber? As far as I’m aware, we don’t offer any of Apple’s new live-saving wearable functionality. It’s a puzzle game! Come on, dude. Also, the Google Translated English is a nice touch.

I didn’t even reply to this email, and he never followed up. It’s probably just an auto-generated email. Good for a chuckle, but time to move on.

32615903782_78bba148f3_b

Scammer #2 – My Daughter Ate My Homework

Our next scam took much longer, because this person kept pestering me. Say what you will about Mr. Youssef, but he knew when to find a new mark. But “Zahid Aslan / The Sunflower” just wouldn’t leave me alone, so I had some fun with him. Here’s the initial scam email:

Sat, Oct 6, 4:16 PM

Hi! I’ve purchased Where Shadows Slumber in iOS and was adoring it, but it seems like my daughter accidentally deleted it and when I was planning to reinstall, the appstore didn’t allow me to redownload the game for free for some reason. (No idea why, nothing I did to fix it worked, I even contacted Apple but they weren’t much help) so I was wondering if it’s okay if you can send a redeem code so I can reinstall the game? Thanks! Great game and worth $5!

Sent from my iPad

Not bad. I’ll be honest, this seemed real at first. A+ on this first email. He complimented the game, blamed two other people (his daughter, and Apple) and made it seem like contacting me was a last resort. He even put in the “sent from my iPad” bit at the end. Is this a pro Genji?

I had to dig a little deeper though, because I know how the App Store works. The error he’s talking about is impossible – you can’t “delete” something from your library of purchased iOS apps. So I replied immediately, and nicely asked him for some proof.

Wow I’m sorry to hear that! That’s very strange – it should be tied to your App Store account forever once you purchase it. We used all of our promo codes already, but I can try to see what the problem is.

Do you have the receipt in your email from when you bought it? Send me a screenshot of it and I’ll see how I can direct you. Unless you requested a refund, they should have it in your library permanently from now on.

Apple is pretty strict about refunds, so they’re keeping your money unfortunately [ x_x] but I’ll see what I can do!

-Frank

We hadn’t actually used all of our promo codes… that was just a little lie to get him talking. Then, he blew his cover with one of the worst things you can ever do: fake graphics. Read on…

Yeah it’s strange, I think this is the first time I’ve experienced it, Apple actually told me this

SunflowerScam

But Apple does provide more codes after each update I think, so I guess I will wait for that, since the refunding system for me is a mess and I don’t want to risk it.

Thanks anyway!
Sent from my iPad

Oh, Zahid. You flew too close to the sun, my friend. This is clearly a conversation he had with himself or a friend over Twitter DMs, with their names cropped out. Two dead giveaways here:

  • How could there be a “new bug” with iOS 11 a few weeks after iOS 12 launched?
  • Apple never tells customers to ask developers for promo codes.

Besides, he followed Game Revenant’s Twitter account with his own “Sunflower” Twitter account a few days earlier. When I noticed the similarities between the avatars, I did some snooping and found this:

Scam-Tweet

He must be some kind of weird man that emails developers for keys, and then hands them out on Twitter to boost his popularity. Not today, kid.

Here’s where I stopped responding. His game was up. I knew he was lying to me, and I didn’t have to call him on it. I planned to just ignore him.

But he wouldn’t stop.

If At First You Don’t Zahid…

As it turns out, we actually did update the game around October 7th for unrelated reasons. He apparently caught wind of this. Two days after the first email, he’s back in my Inbox:

Mon, Oct 8, 6:25 PM

Hi, I’ve seen you updated the game a day ago. Do you have a code now? Apple usually refreshes them after each update.

Sent from my iPad

I couldn’t believe he was still trying this! But I didn’t reply. Surely he’d go away, right?

Wrong!

Oct 9, 2018, 12:10 PM

Hello?

Not cool, man. You don’t get to flood my Inbox with annoying messages when you’re trying to scam me. And where’s the “Sent from my iPad” signature? Sloppy. That’s when I decided it was time for an early Halloween trick.

Apple promo codes are 12 digits long, and highly specific. All I had to do was create some random ones and make sure I didn’t accidentally give him real codes.

Sorry Zahid, I took off for Columbus Day! Here’s two codes, one for you and one for your daughter:
U1R7MR99G4Y0
G3TR3KT7N3RD
Have fun!!
-Frank

Apparently he didn’t notice that the second code is “GET REKT NERD” with numbers instead of vowels. These are totally fake! He tried them, and of course they didn’t work.

Oct 9, 2018, 5:12 PM

These are both invalid? Can you double check?

Sent from my iPad

Happy Halloween!

Oct 10, 2018, 5:37 PM

Hello? The codes you sent are not valid.

Sent from my iPad

LOL

Oct 11, 2018, 10:42 AM

Hi?

Man, he never gives up! He probably thought he had me, and got so close but lost out in the end due to chance. It was time for a Twitter conversation over DMs, apparently.

Once More, With Trolling

The Sunflower gives up on email, and decides to try Twitter. Mind you, this is the same Twitter account that has a picture from August where he’s handing out codes! It’s easier to just post the images of our conversation:

Sunflower-DM-0

Sunflower-DM-1.JPG

The last code I sent him? Read it again – it spells “NICE TRY BUDDY.”

Sunflower-DM-2.JPG

He says he’ll check, but we both know the truth – there is no receipt. There never was a receipt. There never was a daughter. There never was an iPad, either.

I haven’t heard from him since, but I hope he reads this blog post!

 

Why Did You Do This, Frank?

Listen, if you think I just did this because I’m a petty artist with too much time on my hands, you’re absolutely correct. Although in my defense, I normally don’t go out of my way to troll people – “The Sunflower” just kept pestering me and I wanted to get him to go away!

The reason I wrote this blog post is to warn indie developers, not just troll people. It’s very easy to fall for these scams when your game first launches – you’re excited that it’s on the store, but there are unexpected bugs all over the place, too. People are reaching out to you for help with issues, puzzles, or writing articles. There’s no time to really tell what’s what, and it’s easy to fall for a sob story about heart surgery or a dastardly daughter.

Customer service will be a new experience for you when you first put your game on the store, but the customer isn’t always right. Sometimes, there never was a customer.

Happy Halloween, scammers!

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Where Shadows Slumber is now available on the App Store! bit.ly/WSS-iOS

Find out more about our game at WhereShadowsSlumber.com, ask us on Twitter (@GameRevenant), Facebookitch.io, or Twitch, and feel free to email us directly at contact@GameRevenant.com.

Frank DiCola is the founder of Game Revenant and the artist for Where Shadows Slumber.

2 thoughts on “Trick or Treat, Scammers!

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