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 :-).

  • 6
    Your step 4 premise is false: reputation accrued from deleted posts is not retained.
    – dlev
    Aug 11, 2011 at 13:58
  • 5
    @dlev - it is until a recalculation is performed. So as long as there's no recalculation you keep the reputation.
    – ChrisF Mod
    Aug 11, 2011 at 13:59
  • @ChrisF Good point. It would likely eventually be taken care of, but not necessarily any time soon.
    – dlev
    Aug 11, 2011 at 14:01
  • @ChrisF - when this recalculation is performed, can you provide some details? Aug 11, 2011 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 Mod
    Aug 11, 2011 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. Aug 11, 2011 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. Aug 11, 2011 at 14:09
  • Enough deleted posts and you are automatically banned from posting.
    – user1228
    Aug 11, 2011 at 14:09
  • @Wont - you just need one for each new account. Aug 11, 2011 at 14:10
  • @Won't_: It does apply for answers?
    – genesis
    Aug 11, 2011 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? Aug 11, 2011 at 14:11
  • @Won't: Now I would be interested if you got notifications for the above two comments by Andrei and genesis :-) Aug 11, 2011 at 14:21
  • 1
    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?) Aug 11, 2011 at 14:30
  • 2
    @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. Aug 11, 2011 at 14:30
  • 1
    @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).
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Aug 11, 2011 at 14:34

4 Answers 4


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).

  • Gained upvotes can be used to raise reputation of totally unrelated account. What will you do with this account? Aug 11, 2011 at 14:14
  • @Andrei When accounts are merged, votes made by one of them will be invalidated.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Aug 11, 2011 at 14:17
  • 8
    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, 2011 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.

  • 2
    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 Aug 11, 2011 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. Aug 11, 2011 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. Aug 11, 2011 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.


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.

  • 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. Aug 11, 2011 at 14:34

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