What's to stop someone from selling Reputation (or their entire account) on a virtual currency auction site? In terms of Rep, a seller could offer 500 Rep and then easily transfer it to the buyer through a Bounty, could they not?

Indeed, people are already searching for ways to do this:

enter image description here

Obviously many people don't consider Rep to be worth money, but I'm sure somebody does. How can Stack Exchange sites prevent this from ever becoming a reality?

Edit: At least one user was approached to do just this a year before this question was asked.

  • 28
    We already have a great community of users who are really good at tracking down and reporting this kind of behavior. I'd say the big ban-hammer would stop them. Ultimately, though, we can only control this on our network. We can't be responsible for users being taken advantage of and having both their account and their money stolen if a company elsewhere decides to allow these sales to take place (I'm pretty sure eBay wouldn't).
    – animuson StaffMod
    May 21, 2013 at 13:00
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    Also: don't overestimate what reputation gets you? It doesn't get you better answers when you ask a question and it doesn't get you more upvotes when you answer one (you'll actually get more downvotes, if you've got a bad highly-upvoted answer). It's just a number next to your user name. May 21, 2013 at 13:20
  • Don't need to tell me -- but people still value it! May 21, 2013 at 13:24
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    We don't need a marketplace for reputation to be completely meaningless and pointless. May 21, 2013 at 15:39
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    Even if it happened, what difference would it make? Don't be distracted by the blinking lights.
    – spring
    Jul 13, 2013 at 16:26
  • I don't really see the issue for this... I mean I sometimes peruse people's accounts and I can see where people gain their reputation. If I see them get a +500 bounty on an answer, I sometimes take a look, especially if it represents a large amount of their reputation. (This is because I am genuinely curious as to what sort of magnificent answer they gave so they deserved that much reputation. It shouldn't be hard to see them post a crappy answer and get rewarded for it to know their reputation is fake.
    – aug
    Jul 14, 2013 at 0:55
  • Wouldn't one ideally want to be selling an entire account? "Top n% on n tags, < n% for the year, n many helpful flags, n many gold badges..." etc...? Jul 14, 2013 at 16:58
  • @NickCraver I actually think this is a fair edit, a little creepy that people want to buy it, the harder part is viably selling it
    – user310756
    Jul 16, 2013 at 11:23
  • Point is that a lot of people out there are willing to define themselves over pointless numbers or feats, so I guess someone desperate would do it.
    – U-No-Poo
    Jul 16, 2013 at 12:35
  • @U-No-Poo it's not a viable way to make money and unlikely to become a big enough threat to the site because of this
    – user310756
    Jul 16, 2013 at 16:37

11 Answers 11


that there's nothing really stopping someone from selling Reputation on a site like eBay

Sure there is, eBay explicitly doesn't allow this.

Besides that, I think this is a theoretical problem. If it ever happened, we have plenty of tools to deal with the account afterwards.

  • From that link: "There are lots of sites out there that sell game gold and other virtual-items..." Also, how exactly would anyone be able to tell who had "sold" their rep? May 21, 2013 at 15:46
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    @DjangoReinhardt Let me pause you there, do you know of any instances of this happening? I could debate theoreticals all day but are we solving an actual problem here? I have about 93 problems that need solving today, but this one seems imagined. May 21, 2013 at 15:49
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    Um, no-one is forcing you to engage in this discussion, Nick. May 21, 2013 at 15:52
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    @DjangoReinhardt I didn't say anyone was - just pointing out that we've been around for about 5 years now, and there's not one known instance of this happening. You're starting at question #2: "what's to stop this?", I'm starting with the first question: "what's to encourage this?" Jul 13, 2013 at 16:15
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    The focus of this question has never been eBay. Jul 16, 2013 at 10:20
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    @DjangoReinhardt ok...that doesn't make it any more of a real problem though. Broadening it to any case imaginable and it still hasn't happened in 5 years just further proves that there's just not enough motivation to sell in the first place. Jul 16, 2013 at 10:24
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    I don't think anyone has claimed that this is a current problem. This has always been a hypothetical question. I'm sorry if that wasn't clear. Jul 16, 2013 at 10:29
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    Note that ebay, per that page, actually allows selling virtual items if we're not talking about in context of a game. The page you linked offers Second Life as an example. Is stack overflow a game?
    – eis
    Jul 20, 2015 at 10:41

The community will take care of that by itself.

Reputation is just a number that represents what you have done so far on Stack Overflow. IMO, it is only important when it comes to privileges you unlock along the way. Other than that, it's just a number.

  • I would not accept an answer simply because the user has a lot of rep.
  • I would not answer a question simply because the user has a lot of rep.

So why would someone buy reputation? The only notoriety you can have here is by showing of your acquired badges which are, in some cases, pretty impressive but that's all there is to notoriety on SO.


Hey I just paid $200 for 500k rep. Now what?

  • 1
    I agree. It's pointless, but then again, so is WOW Gold! :) May 21, 2013 at 15:54
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    Probably.. i'm not a WOW player but I know I don't get anything for my rep here. May 21, 2013 at 15:58
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    Some people would accept answers/questions just because the user has a lot of rep - and I do think that rep is beginning to have another value: If people provide their SO-profile when they submit a resumé, high rep and a lot of badges in specific tags could signify a quality that the user just wouldn't have in that case. You even have the career site here verifying whether you are good enough by rep, if I'm not mistaken.
    – user213634
    Jul 12, 2013 at 21:31
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    Is that profile real? almost 600k points and only 1 gold badge seems so hard to believe. Jul 13, 2013 at 1:31
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    @phoenixheart6 It is my profil. I used to have that name. I simply changed the HTML and took a screenshot Jul 13, 2013 at 16:39
  • @AndersUP My two best friends are engineers and program and have been programming for decades, before most of the languages we use existed, when I asked them have you heard of stack overflow, they both answered yes and when I asked what they thought of it, they gave their opinion of stack overflow in programming and had never heard of this site!! So I really don't think rep and badges will help many get a job, besides anyone with any sense, would build a CV with programming skills in real life, not on a Q&A site
    – user310756
    Jul 16, 2013 at 16:43
  • @AndersUP perhaps sensible people wouldn't be debating this?? hehehehe
    – user310756
    Jul 17, 2013 at 3:01

A bounty still requires a decent post to award it to. Sure, someone could award a bounty of a considerable amount of rep to utter drivel. But with the community we have, it is unlikely that nobody would notice. In fact, bounties were designed to be highly visible.

So while it would technically be possible to sell your rep (or part of it) and award it to a user, I hardly think it's a practical concern.

  • 4
    I can think of a ton of ways around the system that would make it imperceptible to everyone. (Pre-arranged Q&A for example.) May 21, 2013 at 15:49
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    @DjangoReinhardt In which case it would be far less of a problem. Good on-topic answers (non-dupe) with a decent answer.... sounds like a win to me for a mere 500 points.
    – Bart
    May 21, 2013 at 15:50
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    So you don't mind people exchanging rep for cash provided it's adds to the quality of the site? May 21, 2013 at 15:53
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    @DjangoReinhardt Nah, not at all. It shouldn't happen. And I think it's very unlikely to happen. But if it were to go unnoticed through the addition of good content, at least we're left with good content. If I were to notice something suspicious however, I would certainly flag it.
    – Bart
    May 21, 2013 at 15:56

Say that a potential employer wants to base their hiring decision on your StackOverflow reputation. If they even bother with just a little bit of investigation, they really only need to look at your reputation history. It wouldn't be too difficult to see through the sham, because a huge spike in rep, +500 at a time, in a relatively short period of time would be blatantly obvious.

If I were that employer, I would definitely remove you from the running. Or, maybe hire you if I needed a charlatan.


To have an ongoing business selling Stack Exchange reputation one has to have drum roll
a high reputation on the site.

For the purposes of my answer, I am going to refer to the Stack Exchange site Stack Overflow, as this is the Meta Stack Overflow site ;-)

Now this presents the following problems:

  1. To achieve this, one has to be dedicated to spending time asking and answering questions on drumroll

  2. The person has to have a reasonable knowledge about drumroll

  3. People interested in programming are usually pedantic and often literal. So the rep is a useful tool to monitor one's own progress (until it grows boring ;-)).

  4. A person capable of writing good answers to questions, would be capable of answering genuine bounties and earning there own reputation. Given this:

    The rep vendor is going to also have to provide a suitable answer to the buyer. to purchase such rep would be able to provide a good answer.

  5. To create interesting and unique (as in not duplicate) questions and answers the rep vendor is going to to need a good knowledge base of at least one programming language. Making the following more likely:

    Any person with a reasonable knowledge about programming, is capable of making money through fair means or foul. (and yes, I do understand this is open to debate)

  6. I do realise I waved the this is Meta Stack Overflow banner.. so this is not How to Make Money Exchange and I am no expert on either site (real or imaginary) ....[actually - must go to Area 51 and propose new Stack Exchange site ;-) ] ... I have posted the following question, but I suspect, if there are viable answers, that this would be a very poor way to make money.

  7. Let's say (and I'm being generous) 500 rep goes for $100. You are going to have to be working pretty hard on the site to keep getting enough rep to create bounties. So let's calculate an hourly rate some time down the track.

I am not going to reiterate the other valid points made in answers here, as to the sites mechanisms to catch spurious user behaviour.
Suffice to say a user making a living from doing this, would require that many URLS, and phony SO accounts, with so much activity to avoid detection...... (that hourly rate is seriously dropping)

Soooooooooo drumroll In answer to your questions:

How can SE sites prevent this from ever becoming a reality?

I really don't think SE sites need to prevent this from becoming a reality ;-)

A Seller could offer 500 Rep and then easily transfer it to the buyer through a Bounty. Right?

Yes they could, now:

My ebay receipt number is ##@#$###%##8##!

Give me my 500 rep ;-)

Wow, can't wait to become next moderator!!!!

Already fishing for potential buyers ;-)

  • NOTE The site is NOT farmville ;-)
    – user310756
    Jul 14, 2013 at 9:06
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    and thank goodness for that! Now, I got the Sound of Drums in my head....
    – user226423
    Jul 14, 2013 at 9:39
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    @damien oo wooboo wabba wooboo wabba in the jungle the mighty jungle... I dunno sounds of drums reminds me of this song
    – user310756
    Jul 14, 2013 at 9:42
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    I think this is the best answer here. For a start, Yve actually answers the question. Jul 16, 2013 at 10:31
  • @DjangoReinhardt thank you for that, I infused humor, as Meta tolerates that, but I was addressing it seriously in my answer cheers.. ps I don't really want to purchase your rep ;-) oh and I saw your edit, it's a creepy screen shot, then nothing should surprise me, I think it's the generating it to sell it that's the hard part
    – user310756
    Jul 16, 2013 at 11:21

And, further, how practical would this be?

You can only give bounties up to 500 points. Anyone who has been here for any length of time isn't going to find 500 points all that helpful, so only someone brand new would want it. And what does that give you? The ability to re-tag questions? Someone would pay money for that? Well, maybe, but enough to make it worthwhile for the "seller"? I doubt it.

  • 1
    You can get an invitation to Careers.SO: "Wonderful! Because of your activity on Stack Overflow, you qualify for a profile on Stack Overflow Careers." I currently have some 1500 rep on SO (haven't recieved any bounties), and I apparently qualify for Careers. The algo is hopefully more sophisticated than just rep, but your profile on SO is to some degree marketed as a function of your qualities.
    – user213634
    Jul 12, 2013 at 21:34

What's to stop someone from selling their reputation?

How about common sense...

The points don't matter

Why pay money for something that you could otherwise get for free?

The only real value that rep has beyond opening features on the site is a sense that the community trusts you a little more (not much, but a little) and an ego boost. Neither of the latter two reasons would be met with purchased rep.

More or less purchasing rep would be a bit like intentionally purchasing botched plastic surgery, you would be laughed at by the community you were trying to impress.

And don't think people wouldn't find out, with 2.2 million users on SO alone the chances of posting a rep sale anywhere on the net and getting away with it are pretty slim.

Migrated from comments, because I thought it was a good question.

What about the privileges? 10k to one person may not be the best trade, but 50 rep to 200 people each looks like a great deal for 200 spammers, and you don't even lose the rep you're selling.
– Jan Dvorak

You would face a basic black market marketing issue: How do you at the same time advertise that you're in business and remain hidden? Selling smaller amounts of rep to more customers means more exposure and a higher risk of getting caught, which eventually leads to a higher price as the risk reward ratio gets skewed, but customers aren't likely to be willing to pay a higher price, as rep is otherwise freely available.

Some market forces still apply in a black market.

  • 4
    What about the privileges? 10k to one person may not be the best trade, but 50 rep to 200 people each looks like a great deal for 200 spammers, and you don't even lose the rep you're selling. Jul 14, 2013 at 4:17

Why would someone want to buy reputation in the first place? There's no practical benefit from it. Yes, you can close questions and make tag wiki edits - but it's something else than being able to kill orc boss. The lack of people wanting to buy something is a great factor stopping you to sell it.

Second, the mechanism you've described is very highly inefficient. Someone would have to earn 500 reputation first, in order to be able to award it as a bounty. Then that reputation would be lost. It would be more rational to sell upvotes, since no reputation is lost. Honestly, I see so many low-effort questions (mostly I-don't-understand-this-Java-code-I-know-only-PHP question - no offence, I'm just using PHP as an example) that I don't think someone would mention.

Third, buying reputation would be like buying spam articles from spam generator. People don't buy that, they make it themselves.

Fourth, every advertisement on the internet leaves traces. It's easier to send a private message to your friend on Facebook to give you some upvotes. And only NSA will know.


I think it would be much more viable to sell good questions and answers. Just like people write blog articles for money.


The only thing stopping someone from selling their reputation is if the price isn't right.

Like most other tangible things in life you can put a price on a reputation point, it will probably be a function of the amount of time it takes to generate said rep point and the monetary or emotional value (translated to monetary value) each point carries.

I don't see anyway I won't sell my rep for say, 100$ a point. I got a wife and a dog1 to feed!

But there is a bigger issue, Who in her right mind will pay for rep?

reputation has no monetary value!

there is nothing to gain from rep points.



  • Ah HA!
    – Pollyanna
    Jul 12, 2013 at 21:26
  • 3
    I know I know it should be a cat
    – raam86
    Jul 12, 2013 at 21:50
  • 1
    Yes, a cat ;)
    – Mottie
    Jul 13, 2013 at 15:50
  • What about the privileges? 10k to one person may not be the best trade, but 50 rep to 200 people each looks like a great deal for 200 spammers, and you don't even lose the rep you're selling. Jul 14, 2013 at 4:21
  • @jandvorak I dont belueve any of these privilges is worth any money. You need a good 5 captchas to even make it worth a dollar and I dont think short lived comments (due to flagging). Have high conversion rates
    – raam86
    Jul 14, 2013 at 5:16
  • I wonder if the downvoters think that rep DOES have monetary value....
    – raam86
    Jul 16, 2013 at 12:38

My two cents:

  1. 500 rep points doesn't get you a lot these days. The only really important place you don't want this corruption is with moderators. But then you need multiple 10K reputation points, years of activity and mostly experience and proved ability in editing and moderating.

  2. Repeated bounties for no real reason will start to raise flags on that user, and with a justified flag nothing matters. I've witnessed high rep users (with gold badges, etc.) getting suspended very quickly for foul play.

  3. For the case of a theoretical potential employer, I doubt reputation is what they'll look upon. Sure you need it, but then the important thing is: was it gain by very many, but simple answers? Or by significant impact answers and brilliance?


Counterpoint: If a marketplace existed for Reputation, it could render it more meaningful and improve all Stack Exchange sites.

Right now reputation points are used as a measure of experience, contribution, and commitment. But beyond that they have no value. Once you're a Trusted User what incentive do you have to accumulate rep, other than whatever value your own ego places next to that number? I have seen examples of formerly invaluable users sort of check out once their rep was past the mid-5-figures.

If a financial market existed for rep then the most valuable users (i.e., those who can provide the best questions and answers) would have some incentive beyond the "gaming" aspects to continue participating. So that's the supply side.

On the demand side: Who would pay for rep? Obviously somebody who really wants attention to a question, but can't or won't invest the time to try to build their own rep natively.

Would it be bad if somebody could pay for a 500-point bounty on their question? It would give it more eyes, and it might give it more answers, but it's not like it would pollute the ecosystem with bad questions: the question is still subject to votes, which are democratic and (we try to ensure) can't be bought with money. Bad questions will still accumulate votes that indicate their merit – and more quickly if they have a bounty.

Would it be bad if somebody bought Trusted User status and then started mucking about in the review queues? Sure, but that's why we have mods and CMs who can take away that status as easily as it was purchased.

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