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Steamed! Game swap gets IT exec fired

After posting a mother lode of online games, a Reddit user got blackmailed and lost his job.


Kevin Morris

Internet Culture

Posted on Oct 26, 2011   Updated on Jun 3, 2021, 1:55 am CDT

Be careful what you post on social news site Reddit. You may get blackmailed. Or even lose your job.

In a section of the site called r/gameswap, users trade used physical game discs and online keys to activate downloaded games. The latter can be an especially risky business.

Redditor nyan_all_the_links posted that he worked as top-level management in his company’s IT department. He’d recently received 312 keys to the game Deus Ex: Human Revolution. He could do whatever he wanted with the keys, but was strictly prohibited from allowing anyone to trace them back to his company.

He took them to r/gameswap.

That ended up being a very bad idea.

Similar keys sell for about $25 apiece on eBay. That means nyan_all_the_links was sitting on potentially $8,000 worth of merchandise. That’s not the kind of thing you want to advertise, especially on a forum with over 7,000 subscribers—some of whom might not have your best interests at heart.

He put his offer up about a week ago.

By 7:45 a.m. Monday, he’d received his first threatening phone call. In the message, left on his work voicemail, a person threatened to tell his employers of the Reddit transactions unless he coughed up the codes. It was blackmail. That was just the beginning.

By the end of the day,  by nyan_all_the_links’s count, people had called 138 times. At least one woman called, men called, a person with a voice modulator called. Someone, somewhere, had found his personal information and shared it.

“The callers demands ranged from a few codes, to all the games on my pre-trade list and a select few wanted everything,” nyan_all_the_links wrote on Reddit.

How did they get his information? nyan_all_the_links wasn’t sure.

“I do not know how the were able to track me down,” he wrote in an email to the Daily Dot. He was very careful with his identity on Reddit. “I accidentally released my name at some point, but that name is quite common and results in several Facebook pages on Google, none of which are mine.”

The callers didn’t stop at harassing him—they harassed his boss:

“One caller recited my CEO’s home, cell and work number and knowing that it was only a matter of time before things escalated beyond my control, I decided I should come clean. I decided to inform my CEO of the developments and as I walked into his office, I heard him swearing at the ‘people from the Internet.’”

By the end of the morning, nyan_all_the_links was fired.

The redditor, who told the Daily Dot he is in his early 20s (he did not want to reveal more personal information), hasn’t been unemployed since high school. He’s got enough savings and other money to be fine for another six to eight months, he said, and he’s pretty sure he can find a job in that time. He said that “emotionally,” he’s doing fine.

He doesn’t blame Reddit for the ordeal, and he certainly doesn’t blame the r/gameswap community. That people were blackmailing him was “nobody’s fault but my own,” he told the Daily Dot.

“This was entirely due to me trading so many at once,” nyan_all_the_links wrote on Reddit. “I should have been smart about this.”

He should have traded just a few keys at a time, over weeks or months, he wrote.

He added: “I disregarded the first rule of the Internet: Be Cautious.”

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*First Published: Oct 26, 2011, 1:43 pm CDT