So you are having fun one fine day, playing in a loose, profitable no-limit hold’em game at your favorite online poker room (let’s call it PokerABC). Everything is moving along as usual when, all of a sudden, you see this message in the chat box:

Dealer: PokerABC is having a giveaway today! The first two players from this table who visit the website http://giveaway-PokerABC.com/ will be awarded with $100!

Wow! You hurriedly type the URL into your web browser and…holy cow…you won! All you have to do now is enter your poker room screen name and password so they can get you your money.

Stop.

Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? It is. By entering your password on that website, you are giving some crook unfettered access to your online poker account and, in turn, your bankroll.

The key to this scam is making the message look real. Normally, a player cannot type a message that says it’s from the Dealer. After all, it will still begin with the player’s screen name. The person who typed the above message just faked it. The chat box at most online poker rooms is small; it can only fit a few lines of text. So, what the scammer does is enter a line of garbage characters first, followed by a blank line or two and then the scam message. Because the message is several lines long, the first few lines get pushed off the top of the chat box, leaving only the scam message visible. And because the first few lines disappear, so does the originator’s screen name. Thus, all people see is that a “Dealer” typed it.

If you were to scroll up to see older text, you would see something like this:

EvilScammer (Observer): ========================================

That’s the text that isolates the scam message.

While the scam may look legit to the novice player, if you just remember a few things, you can protect yourself. First, know that most online poker rooms present official messages in a different color than text typed by players. There is no way for a scammer to fake colored text. Second, any special promotion will be found directly on the online poker room’s website. If you read about an interesting offer, go right to the official poker room site and find it there. Avoid the fake URL altogether. Third, never type your password into any website except for the online poker room’s official site – the poker room does not need this information to deposit prize winnings into your account. Fourth, and finally, always be cynical. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

The online poker rooms are working on putting an end to this scam. Most have eliminated the ability of players who are not at the table to chat. Almost every scammer you will see is simply an observer, not seated at the table. This is because none actually intend to play. They just open fake accounts so they can get access to the tables and then go around pasting the scam messages in text boxes. It would take a lot more time and become a lot more obvious if they sat down, tried the scam, then got up. Of course, colored chat text is already in place and is a very easy tip-off as to the legitimacy of a message.

The best step you, as a player, can take to stop this scam is to report the offenders to the online poker room’s administrators. Often, all of the accounts that spam these messages are related in some way, and the more information the poker room can have to weed them out, the better.

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