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Is this situation possible:

  1. Someone have 2 accounts with "upvote" privilege and one question.
  2. He creates new (unprivileged) account and posts some (even meaningless) answer to this question.
  3. Answer gets 2 upvotes from privileged accounts and new account gets "upvote" privilege, which can be used to raise reputation of two initial accounts.
  4. New (now privileged) account deletes his answer but retains reputation gained from it.
  5. Goto step 2.

Even if phantom accounts lose their privileges (via moderation), initial accounts will not (at least it looks like). So you can automate this process and create trusted account in virtually no time, can't you?

You can even try to abuse edits of original question, approved by question owner.

I know I can verify this easily by hand, I just don't want to get banned for abuse if it turns out possible.

UPDATE: I've just got banned for 3 days on SO :-).

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6  
Your step 4 premise is false: reputation accrued from deleted posts is not retained. –  dlev Aug 11 '11 at 13:58
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@dlev - it is until a recalculation is performed. So as long as there's no recalculation you keep the reputation. –  ChrisF Aug 11 '11 at 13:59
    
@ChrisF Good point. It would likely eventually be taken care of, but not necessarily any time soon. –  dlev Aug 11 '11 at 14:01
    
@ChrisF - when this recalculation is performed, can you provide some details? –  Andrei Petrenko Aug 11 '11 at 14:01
    
@Andrei - it's performed manually from the /reputation page, or by a moderator when they feel necessary, or when your account is unsuspended. –  ChrisF Aug 11 '11 at 14:02
    
@Andrei: It can be done manually be going to stackoverflow.com/reputation and clicking on recalc at the bottom or at pre-defined intervals on SO. I doubt it is done every day on SO because that would probably be an expensive DB operation for all users. –  staticx Aug 11 '11 at 14:03
    
@0A0D: I'm pretty sure it is not done automatically on any schedule. The developers did a global rep recalc once or twice and freaked everyone completely out because a bunch of people lost a bunch of points. Moderators can invoke a reputation recalc on individual users for special circumstances, though. –  Cody Gray Aug 11 '11 at 14:09
    
Enough deleted posts and you are automatically banned from posting. –  Won't Aug 11 '11 at 14:09
    
@Wont - you just need one for each new account. –  Andrei Petrenko Aug 11 '11 at 14:10
    
@Won't_: It does apply for answers? –  genesis Aug 11 '11 at 14:10
    
@Cody: Yes, sorry that's what I meant by pre-defined time. I remember that global recalc - I think it happened this year right? –  staticx Aug 11 '11 at 14:11
    
@Won't: Now I would be interested if you got notifications for the above two comments by Andrei and genesis :-) –  Hendrik Vogt Aug 11 '11 at 14:21
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How exactly could this be deployed as a weapon against your "enemies"? (And why, pray tell, do you have "enemies" on a Q&A site?) –  Cody Gray Aug 11 '11 at 14:30
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@Andrei: Only if you upvote your enemies enough to give them voting privileges, they upvote you a lot in return, and they happen to be at the same IP address as you. –  Bill the Lizard Aug 11 '11 at 14:30
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@Cody Probably not, since the comments didn't just say Won. When more than 3 characters are used, they will all be used in the matching (per rule #3 here). –  Anna Lear Aug 11 '11 at 14:34

4 Answers 4

up vote 14 down vote accepted

While it might be possible in the short term there are tools that moderators have at their disposal to spot this sort of behaviour.

Once spotted it's dealt with by account merging, suspension and/or deletion (as appropriate).

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Gained upvotes can be used to raise reputation of totally unrelated account. What will you do with this account? –  Andrei Petrenko Aug 11 '11 at 14:14
    
@Andrei When accounts are merged, votes made by one of them will be invalidated. –  Anna Lear Aug 11 '11 at 14:17
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We can spot these early on if we're tipped off, or have time to check on voting irregularities. If I strongly suspect something is fishy, my motivation to spend 30 minutes digging increases quite a bit. Every sock puppet is a slap in the face to an honest user who works hard to be helpful, I have very little tolerance for it. –  Tim Post Aug 11 '11 at 14:59

A reputation recalculation will eventually take care of the deletion concern. You can try to game the system but I have confidence in the community members that poor answers or answers that don't answer the question well enough will get downvoted so all that effort will eventually be wasted. The system is able to correct itself for this not to be a major concern. And anyways, rep is "imaginary points" that is not cashable for real money so this is all just for honor and personal pride. Oh and the fact that you like to learn and help other people.

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1  
The part about "rep is imaginary anyway" is silly -- it doesn't translate to real money, but that doesn't mean letting somebody exploit their way to 10k is a good idea, it has meaning –  Michael Mrozek Aug 11 '11 at 14:08
    
@Michael: I'd like to see someone exploit their way to 10K because I have a hard enough time making 200 points per day (though I have been doing pretty good lately - 1,000 points to go), but my answers and questions are legit. –  staticx Aug 11 '11 at 14:10
    
@Michael: My point is that everyone gets all bent out of shape over something that probably will happen in .000001% of the time. –  staticx Aug 11 '11 at 14:10

Apart from moderation there is also an automatic system which spots suspicious patterns, this was noted on the stackexchange blog as well.

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It's considered exploiting their system. The entire network of Stack Exchange is about sharing of information and paying it forward with reputation scores. Being in the technical field, you can also reference this site for employers to see how active you are in your field of interest thus also giving you an edge in the job market.

Creating an imaginary film over your profile via exploiting the reputation point system is considered "Illegal" in the Stack Exchange community and your profiles can and will be handled with due-diligence if you are caught.

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Plus, why waste all the time to fake it when you can use the same amount of time just learning information and giving back to the community. It's pretty shameful. –  Mechaflash Aug 11 '11 at 14:34

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