A practice I've seen is the following:

  • Someone (person A) asks an elaborate question
  • which doesn't get enough attention
  • Person A sets a bounty
  • several answers come but person A is always unsatisfied
  • the answers are improved (...but person A is always unsatisfied)
  • Some person (B or perhaps A') gives a relatively short answer
  • Person A' gets the reward.

Interestingly: when you look at the profiles of A and A', it turns out that they exchange bounties..

How can / does Stack Overflow prevent this from happening?

  • 1
    If anything, if you suspect foul play you can always flag for moderator attention. And I guess SO/SE is not going to tell you what they do to detect such issues. – Bart Oct 29 '13 at 15:42
  • They spend the reputation they're earning through the bounty anyway. So what's the point? – Amal Murali Oct 29 '13 at 15:44
  • 1
    this happens. Someone with sharp eyes notice this, report, it's being investigated and proper actions are taken. :) – Shadow9 Oct 29 '13 at 15:44
  • 1
    It can be prevented by us. When we see suspicious bounty-awarding activity we can flag posts for moderator attention. If they use bad answers, downvote. – Alvin Wong Oct 29 '13 at 15:46
  • @AmalMurali They don't spend it though, they can use the same (say) 100 rep on thousands of questions – Richard Tingle Oct 29 '13 at 15:46
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    @Amal Murali: It bothers me because people are lured into giving advice and tips, hoping to earn some reward, while in fact they do not have a chance to get this reward. – ljgw Oct 29 '13 at 15:58
  • Related: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/37096/… – Shog9 Oct 29 '13 at 15:59

There are no systems in place to track bounty patterns that I know of, let alone prevent or revert them, but patterns like this are often very blatant, enough that it should be sufficient to flag one of the offending posts to let us know.

If we haven't gotten to them ourselves already.

In severe cases this may lead to bounties that were already awarded being revoked. I say exceptional, because it requires enlisting the help of an employee (moderators can only refund bounties that are still pending), and it usually doesn't need to happen unless the bounties really are fraudulent (e.g. if one of the accounts being used to exchange or transfer the bounties turns out to be a sock puppet).

  • 1
    Worst-case, moderators can "refund" bounties by deleting the posts involved... – Shog9 Oct 29 '13 at 15:58
  • I flagged one of the answers that was awarded a bounty. – ljgw Oct 29 '13 at 16:05

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