Figurality Scam on Steam Exposed: Uncovering The Truth

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  • Post published:February 27, 2024
  • Post category:Reviews

You’ve probably seen some alarming headlines recently about the Figurality scam that briefly infiltrated Steam. Games disguising themselves as highly anticipated new releases in order to trick eager gamers is certainly cause for concern.

As a long-time Steam user myself, I was disturbed to learn just how easily the Figurality scammers managed to hijack store listings.

However, Steam and vigilant users dealt with the issue swiftly. Still, the Figurality case stands as an important reminder to stay wary of unbelievable deals and do your research before making purchases.

In this guide, I’ll give you the full lowdown on what exactly this scam was, how it worked, Steam’s response, and most vitally, how you can avoid falling victim to similar tricks in the future:

What Was the Figurality Scam on Steam?

On March 1st, 2024, multiple Steam users began reporting that there were duplicate store listings for the newly released game Helldivers 2. Two listings offered the game for 50-75% off the full $49.99 price.

Obviously, this raised suspicions. Helldivers 2 was only released on February 8th by developers Arrowhead Game Studios. It seemed highly unlikely that the popular title would be so heavily discounted this soon.

Investigators soon discovered the shocking truth — these listings were not actually for Helldivers 2 at all.

The “developers” behind the fake listings had hijacked two older games named Figurality and Do Not Smile. They changed the titles, descriptions, brandings, screenshots, and other information to match Helldivers 2 and added the deep discounts.

Here is exactly what the scammers altered on the Figurality listing:

  • Title – Changed from Figurality to Helldivers 2
  • Description – Replaced with Helldivers 2’s official description
  • Screenshots – Swapped out for Helldivers 2 screenshots
  • Release Date – Changed from November 4th, 2023 (Figurality’s release) to February 8th, 2024 (Helldivers 2’s release)
  • Developer – Changed from SoleOnBoard Studio to Arrowhead Game Studios (the real developers behind Helldivers 2)
  • Publisher – Changed from SoleOnBoard Studio to PlayStation PC LLC (PlayStation’s legitimate PC publishing branch)

This allowed the listings to look convincingly like the real deal at first glance. However, telltale signs like the odd release date, lack of recent reviews, and too-good-to-be-true discount revealed the truth upon closer inspection.

The scammers were clearly trying to capitalize on Helldivers 2’s immense popularity by disguising their games as the highly sought after title. If users purchased without realizing the deception, the scammers could make off with the profits.

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Luckily, vigilant Steam users identified these fake listings rapidly. Valve then removed the listings just 3 hours after they had been modified. Still, the audacious scam raises concerns over the integrity of Steam’s store listings.

How Could The Scam Succeed on Steam?

Steam grants developers quite a lot of control over their store listings. This allows them flexibility to update information when needed.

Unfortunately, this amount of unchecked access also enabled the Figurality scammers to completely transform their store pages to imitate Helldivers 2.

Changes like tweaking the title or description undergo no verification processes. So the scammers could freely overwrite their pages with false information designed specifically to mislead.

The decentralized, hands-off approach Steam takes with store listings clearly has its downsides in situations like this.

Still, Steam’s policies generally work seamlessly enough that scandals of this nature are relatively rare. Review processes would certainly hamper genuine developers who need to make legitimate changes.

Ideally, Steam will examine this incident and consider adding some tighter restrictions regarding branding, copyrighted assets, and publishing credits. This could prevent future large-scale deception efforts while still enabling developers to manage their pages efficiently.

For now, users must stay vigilant when browsing Steam. Double check developers, critical review scores, recent release dates, and discount rates before making purchases. Pay particular attention during major new releases like with Helldivers 2.

Steam’s Response to the Figurality Scam

Fortunately, Steam responded to these fraudulent listings rapidly. Mere hours after they were reported, Valve delisted the fake Helldivers 2 pages completely.

Users who purchased the misleading Figurality game received full refunds. Valve also confirms that they will “take action” against the publisher responsible, likely meaning a permanent ban.

This quick and decisive response prevented the damage from escalating too severely. However, Steam does seem to be lagging in prevention by enabling these brand impersonation cases to occur so easily in the first place.

Hopefully Valve will reassess the problematic areas of Steam’s current verification deficiencies. The Figurality case proved scammers can and will leverage these loopholes when major releases come around.

Tighter regulations around copyrighted brands and assets could close off opportunities for scams like this, while keeping Steam’s signature openness intact elsewhere.

For now though, Steam continues monitoring for suspicious behavior and removing scams once reported. So if you come across what appears to be fraudulent listings, reporting them directly to Steam can help resolve the matter promptly.

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How to Avoid Falling Victim to Steam Scams

While Steam cracked down effectively in this case, the Figurality scam still managed to briefly succeed thanks to certain users falling for the trick.

The techniques the scammers utilized could absolutely be replicated to deceive more oblivious buyers again. So it’s crucial that gamers know how to identify and sidestep these fraudulent listings themselves.

Here are some tips to help you avoid Steam scams using the lessons learned from the Figurality case:

  1. Research New Releases Thoroughly

Whenever looking to buy a recently launched game on Steam, extensively research it ahead of time. Know key details like:

  • The developer/publisher behind the game
  • Exact release date
  • Average review score from major gaming sites
  • Standard pricing conventions for the developer

Equipped with this core info, you will recognize quickly if listings deviate from expectations. Had buyers researched Helldivers 2’s release and background beforehand, the scams likely would never have succeeded.

  1. Inspect Store Listings Carefully

Never rush into purchases without scrutinizing Steam listings first. Look for any subtle signs of manipulation, including:

  • Wrong developers/publishers attached
  • Odd changes to release dates
  • Reviews only going back a couple weeks
  • discounts higher than is typical for the age of the game

The Figurality scammers overlooked many tiny indicators like these that betrayed the legitimacy of their pages. But an informed eye would have spotted the inconsistencies immediately.

  1. Beware Unbelievable Deals

One of the most obvious signs of a Steam scam is an unusually high discount for a popular new release. Massive opening sales like 50-75% off are essentially unheard of.

While the excitement of such a stunning deal is understandable, it’s also exactly the reaction scammers want. Always get skeptical in these situations rather than jumping to purchase.

If an offer seems too good to true, tread carefully and look deeper into the listing first. You’ll likely uncover the scam behind the fraudulent bargain.

  1. Use Tools Like SteamDB

Resources like SteamDB provide information on games unavailable on store listings themselves. Specifically, you can see edit histories that expose if critical details like titles and developers have been tampered with recently.

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Checking SteamDB listings would have instantly revealed the truth behind the fake Helldivers 2 listings. So whenever buying games from an unfamiliar or questionable developer, cross-reference sites like SteamDB first to certify legitimacy.

  1. Only Buy From Recognized Publishers

For the safest approach, only purchase Steam games being published by established gaming companies like:

  • Blizzard Entertainment
  • Electronic Arts
  • Ubisoft
  • Devolver Digital
  • Annapurna Interactive
  • Xbox Game Studios
  • PlayStation Studios

While buying exclusively from major publishers removes opportunities to get great deals on hidden indie gems, it virtually guarantees you won’t encounter fraudulent listings either.

Stick with trusted publishers until Steam ideally implements tighter security making underhand tactics like the Figurality scam no longer viable.

The Key Takeaways on the Figurality Scam

Hopefully this breakdown gave you a complete picture of what exactly the Figurality scam was, how it managed to temporarily infiltrate Steam listings, and most importantly, how you can avoid getting caught by similar tricks going forward.

To recap, the core lessons to take away here are:

  • Research games extensively before buying, especially new releases
  • Carefully inspect Steam listings for inconsistencies
  • Stay skeptical of unrealistic discounts and deals
  • Cross-check SteamDB to certify legitimate developers
  • Play it safe buying only from major recognized publishers

Staying vigilant by following guidelines like these lets us flatten the incentives for fraudsters to even attempt manipulating Steam.

But on the rare occasion an elaborate ruse slips through the cracks, informing ourselves is still the ultimate line of defense. Forewarned gamers can easily sidestep tricks like the Figurality bait-and-switch.

Responsibly keeping our eyes open, thinking critically, and questioning anything suspicious ultimately keeps the Steam community protected. We as users have to uphold our end of keeping the platform secure against exploitation even as Steam works on improving their protections too.

Together through open communication and transparency, both Valve and the passionate Steam userbase can cooperate to lock down lingering vulnerabilities scammers like the Figurality tricksters seek to abuse.

By assisting Steam in closing these loopholes completely, we create a seamlessly safe marketplace where we’re free to indulge our passion for gaming to the fullest without fear of deception.

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