I recently got a new debit card. This isn’t an uncommon occurrence, everyone’s debit and credit cards expire every two to three years, so they need to be replaced. Like Paypal, I’ll have to re-verify my card. Having online banking makes sorting out Paypal easy (although you couldn’t tell, considering some of my clients!) and that’s sorted out nice and fast. Steam is a bit slower. Since it doesn’t have a card verification system like Paypal, you have to wait a couple of days to be able to trade. I can somewhat understand this, it’s a new payment method, something might be going on.
Of course, this 15 day wait might be longer if you haven’t used Steam in a while. Just under a year ago, my sister turned 18 and finally got an ‘adult’ debit card. Before though, she’d used gift cards, and because of this, she hadn’t spent any money on Steam in ages. She ended up waiting 30 days before she was able to trade or use the community market.
Then there’s other places to be trade-restricted. The first is somewhat obvious. Steam Guard’s email activation gives you basic defense against some sort of ‘attack’, so having it off is a bad idea. All someone would need is your username and password and they’re in. Assuming you don’t use the same password for everything, your compromised account would at least be stalled for a bit before being used to spam phishing links to everyone on your friends list. Not having this basic-level security where money’s involved is a bad idea, so I can understand restricting trading.
Using a new computer to access Steam is another way to get trade-restricted. Another minor roadblock for an attacker, more of a nuisance for the average user, who could be doing anything from finishing their newly built computer to clearing out their cookies. Both will give you a trading restriction from the newly authorized device.
Most of the time though, using basic common sense and not clicking on things that look suspicious, you probably won’t have a problem. Accidents happen, weird things happen, but you’ll mostly be fine. A strong password for your account and a different, stronger one for your email would be enough for the majority of websites, including ones that have transactions.
Steam though goes one step further, and joins the ranks of Facebook and the like, requesting your phone number and giving you a code and stuff via your phone. Okay, not the greatest idea, people misplace phones all the time, and they’re easier to steal than desktop computers, but it’s another extra bit of security.
After all that, you might want to take a break. How many more levels of security can you have? Since Valve can’t currently force everyone to do biometric tests, they’ve been thinking a different route. Rather than adding more and more levels of security, they’ve decided to go backwards and make life inconvenient for those with empty inventories and a large helping of common sense.
Now, if you don’t have mobile authentication, you’ll have to wait 3 days to get trades done. And even if you do have mobile authentication, if your trading partner doesn’t, you still have to wait 3 days. Good news, if you have been friends for a year, it’s only one day you have to wait, although that kinda makes it slightly easier for phishers.
Alright, fair enough, Valve, you want to stop people with no common sense from making a billion support tickets. And you want to make an even bigger cut on the Steam Community Market. And you want everyone using your rather slow mobile app, even though there’s no Windows phone version yet. But all this does is slow everyone down, mobile authenticated users or not. And you’ll probably still get a billion support tickets.
There’s also another weird thing. You see, I didn’t sign up for this, I don’t like people knowing my personal telephone number. My brother did. Now, every time he signs into Steam on his computer, he has to go to his phone, generate a new code and enter it on the computer. Honestly? The 1-3 day pseudo-trading restriction didn’t sound that awful until I realised this happened. All he wants to do 99% of the time is play Team Fortress 2, Borderlands and Binding of Isaac.
You know what would be easier? A way to lock items on your account. Maybe answering one of your security questions before a trade. Or maybe a pin number, like a debit card…
Oh hey, we’ve gone full circle.