Update, August 1 Valve seems to have started restoring items to players caught out in a wave of rare item scams.
A series of item scams hit the Steam community earlier this week, as shovelware developers attempted to dupe trading groups attached to popular Steam games. At the time of writing, trading communities attached to Dota 2 and Team Fortress 2 have been affected, with high-profile figures attached to those groups advising users to refrain from trading altogether until Valve have issued a fix.
The issue seems to have begun with a game called Climber, a $1 dirt biking game, and initially revolved around a Dota 2 item called Dragonclaw Hook. That’s an in-game item for one of the game’s heroes, Pudge, that was only available in early 2013, and now fetches around $800 when it’s sold on the Community Market.
Climber’s developers appear to have crafted the fake using Valve’s assets, including the item description, in-game images, and even the Dota 2 logo and name, in order to make their version appear as realistic as possible. After players completed the trade, the fake would appear in their inventory, but not as an item for Dota 2, making it entirely useless.
Climber has since vanished from the Steam store, but it’s encouraged a significant number of copycat scams, and in theory, any legitimate game could be subject to this same issue. Dota 2 and TF2 appear to have been most affected, but CS:GO, Rocket League, and PUBG all feature in-game trading economies that could be subject to abuse of this kind.
Valve has issued a temporary fix to the issue, which will warn players if they’re about to receive an item from a game they’ve never played before. In a thread on Reddit, Valve dev Drunken_F00l also states that the company has “started requiring approval for app name changes, and have more planned to address this sort of problem. We are hopeful that having to dismiss two warning dialogues will be sufficient to make people think twice about trades containing forged items, but this is not the end of our response.” They also state that “we intend to restore/recover items for anyone who was tricked by this scam prior to the warnings being in place.” According to wickedplayer494 on Twitter, that process seems to have begun.
The process of item restoration for users that lost items as a result of fake item scams appears to be underway, as at least one high-profile case has been resolved.
— wickedplayer494 (@wickedplayer494) July 31, 2018
That said, advice from all over the relevant trading communities seems to suggest that you should pause all trading practices for now. If you absolutely have to trade, make sure to only do so between individuals you actually know. Some people have suggested that solicited trading sites should be at less risk, but in my opinion it’s probably better to be safe than sorry.
Last night, another Steam game, Abstractism, was removed from the platform after it was discovered that the game was a front for a cryptojacking and item trading scam. Last month, Valve defended its decision to allow any game onto the platform, as the company’s head of business development, Jan-Peter Ewert, told conference guests that “we aren’t the taste police.” We’ve reached out to Valve for further comment on this issue and will update this article with any new information.