Update from Rockstar (4/23)
Rockstar contacted us after-hours on 4/22, following publication of this original content, to provide a statement on the issues discussed herein. That statement can be found here.
Collecting the Facts
After taking days to officially comment, Rockstar told Kotaku in a statement that its service had not been compromised. The company indicated that hacked accounts may have been exposed through lists previously obtained elsewhere; if some other site were hacked and the same account information had been used, that'd be the source of it, Rockstar said. Rockstar then urged its users to change passwords regardless.
Interestingly, our hacked account employed a password unique to Rockstar's services that, known to us, has never been used elsewhere. This effectively rules-out a rainbow table lookup and the strength of the password is enough to minimize brute forcing possibilities (within the allotted timeframe).
Most instances of account theft begin with an email: “The email address for your account has been updated,” it reads, noting that emails will now be sent to the new address instead. Rockstar seeks no confirmation to initialize an email or account holder information update, allowing hackers to effortlessly obtain indefinite access to compromised accounts. Further, we've encountered what we believe to be session bugs; that is, it would appear that sessions remain active after account detail updates, making it difficult to truly evict a hacker. Some Rockstar user reports even indicate that hackers get involved in the support tickets, making claims of account sale or similar actions.
Speaking with a few of our readers, it was determined that some users have been waiting for account resolution for several days, with their Social logins hacked near the game's launch. Thousands of Google results are returned for “Rockstar account hacked” or “GTA V account hacked,” with dozens of first-page thread replies highlighting long wait times and uncertain courses of action. Following the immediate opening of support tickets, further correspondence proved limited to the rare email or, after begging on forums, a moderator's reply promising case escalation.
This leaves the phone line for support. Unfortunately, as we eventually learned, it is a path that unfailingly leads to the prompt and abrupt disconnection of the call. Most of us would call it “being hung up on.”
In calls made by GN staff to the Rockstar support team using real ticket identifiers for real hacked accounts, we ran the gamut through which any consumer would be forced. Listen to the above video for the full effect, but we'll recap it here.
On our first call, we provided the support ticket ID and only spoke when prompted with questions from Rockstar's somewhat incoherent staff member. After the account information was accessed, the representative stated what would become a familiar line:
“Your case has been logged for further review. Our understanding is that there is no further help that we can provide at this time and we will now end this call.”
I'd interrupted the representative, rapidly interjecting with a jumbled “wait, hang-on. Hang on. Don't hang up on me. Could you repeat --” and he was gone.
Call two: For parity and a sanity-check, because this may just have been one bad agent, I'd decided to emulate my approach. I read the ticket ID and only spoke when necessary, not taking my usual disarm-them-with-conversation approach employed elsewhere.
The same thing, though with less confidence: “Your case has been logged,” the agent stammered as I stifled a stressed laugh, “we will now end this call.” I interrupted him, attempting to ask something, and settled with “so you're going to hang up on me, too?”
Note that, in all of these calls – as evidenced by the video and recordings – we never once strayed from a non-confrontational tone of discussion.
This went on for another call with the exact same results. With parity achieved, I decided to take a more direct approach – I wanted to explicitly ask an agent if they had been instructed to hang up on customers.
I spoke to someone coherent and apologetic this time. After briefly mentioning that I'd been unwillingly disconnected previously, my new support agent offered a quick “sorry” and proceeded with the usual readings: “Your case has been logged,” he read from the script. Unlike the previous representatives, this agent stopped just short of the harsh, dehumanized “we will now end this call” line. I waited for a second, then proposed the following:
GN: “So is this, like – is it standard for support agents to hang up after saying that line? Because I've heard it three or four times now.”
Agent: “Yeah, it is. It's standard. We have to.”
GN: “All right.”
I disconnected the call.
Rockstar's customer service policy is to disconnect calls in any form that we explored, and as we eventually found out, it appears that this phone service exists purely as an “escalator:” Calls get pushed to email-only departments via “escalation,” then presumably resolved off the phone. Any request to speak with a supervisor is met with quick, unstoppable disconnects.
At one point, I called without the consumer guise and ticket IDs, explaining my editorial intentions. I asked to be connected with PR or a supervisor, to which the agent replied that she had to check. I was put on hold as she, quite obviously, checked with a supervisor. She told me that agents can't transfer calls to other agents and disconnected the call.
This would explain the short wait times and might be acceptable in the instance that email correspondence proved reliable and effective; but even then, the harsh, rude, mandated disconnects exhibit such baffling ineptitude of customer service that it becomes almost comical. Hanging up on a customer without first allowing them to somehow speak or respond to scripted statements is bad business.
As a consumer, I expect a suggested course of action, a direct connection to someone more relevant, a pathway to refund, or even a half-way reassuring promise that “we're working on it.” Treating a caller like a human is no exorbitant demand.
What Recourse Exists?
There is effectively no official consumer recourse presented by Rockstar. When asking the less disconnect-inclined representatives what to do next, we were told “wait, honestly.”
One of our readers provided us with a recording of his own support call – catalyzing our further efforts – and suggested that we listen for discussion of warranties. The reader, frustrated after being disconnected and receiving no email correspondence for several days, called a second time and asked whether the warranty policy would cover a return in this instance of security. The support representative answered with a question:
Agent: “We – I mean, did you buy the game from Rockstar warehouse?”
Customer: “The game was purchased from Green Man Gaming, which gives a code for the Rockstar social club.”
Agent: “Right, so if you wanted a refund, you'd have to go through them.”
Customer: “Despite the fact that it's Rockstar failing to provide the service?”
Interestingly, in examining the Rockstar warranty policy, it appears uncertain whether a refund would even be offered in the case of a direct purchase. The policy states that only storage media failure (physical disc purchases) and “defects” will be accepted through return channels:
“Owner warrants that the original Storage Media holding the SOFTWARE is free from defects in materials and workmanship under normal use and service for a period of ninety (90) days from the date of purchase as evidenced by your receipt. If for any reason you find defects in the Storage Media, or if you are unable to install the SOFTWARE on your home or portable computer, you may return the SOFTWARE and all ACCOMPANYING MATERIALS to the place you obtained it for a full refund.”
There are a few items to note here: Despite the obvious slant toward physical media, the call agent suggested that a purchase through Rockstar Warehouse would warrant the functionality of the product and allow a refund. We decided to call without identifying information – a new account, effectively – and ask about the warranty policy in the case of account theft.
Agent: “This particular situation, I'm not sure if [the warranty] would cover it. Because you're trying to what - to return it?”
GN: “Yeah, I guess in an ideal situation. The way I see it being the easiest for everyone is terminating the existing account and then refund me and I'll buy the game through a different email – that way it's 100% secure.”
Agent: “Yeah, we don't really have a way to generate the codes for that. For that particular scenario, this is what's been outlined that we have to do – we have to escalate the account up.”
Voluntary account termination in exchange for a refund is made impossible, even in the instance of hacking and where I've offered to repurchase the game on a clean account.
Ultimately, it's Customer Service
Ignoring Rockstar's unwillingness to act with haste on these urgent matters, the treatment of customers through direct communication channels – channels put in place by Rockstar – is inexcusable and insulting. Even EA Games, one of the most provocative names mentionable in the industry, is able to retrieve stolen accounts on a moment's notice using its Origin call center; I'd know, as I've had to retrieve stolen press and personal accounts using the phone systems. It took minutes and I was never once hung-up on.
If your account has been stolen, you can open a ticket using the support number 1.866.922.8694; we ask that you please leave this line open unless actually in need of support, as it's become clear that the phone agents are instructed from on-high not to provide anything beyond initial ticket generation. For those following-up on open tickets, it sounds like you've got to keep firing emails into the abyss.
If you'd like to reach-out to Rockstar and oppose their treatment of customers, we recommend tweeting at the @RockstarGames and @RockstarSupport accounts, tagging us in those tweets (@GamersNexus with #GTAhacked), and emailing Rockstar your concerns.
View the video for a plunge into Rockstar's unfathomable support system. Remember, GTA V generated in excess of $800mm in revenue within 24 hours of its 2013 release. As of February, 2015, the company has shipped 45 million copies worldwide. The funding for support training exists.
We reached out to Rockstar for official comment Tuesday morning, but have not yet received a response.
Update: A few readers have emailed us support tickets with similar stories to our own. We're happy to do what we can, but the best immediate course of action is to retain contact with Rockstar through support channels. Please update us with a comment if you've retrieved your account
- Steve “Lelldorianx” Burke.