Smuggling fail, negative ISK balance

I screwed up pretty miserably.

I re-initiated my eve career after a break of 7 years. My favorite activity as casual solo player is trading/hauling between regions.

It took some hours to work my way up from 12 Mio ISK to 26 Mio ISK and I felt like I am back on track. When I turned my back to EVE back in the days, I had lost quite a bit of money after having owned about 300 Mio. ISK in my prime.

Then I smuggled contraband.

I know (now) how stupid that was. I have a faint recall of having done this in my earliest days 7 years ago, too. Going from Gallente space to Caldari space with small arms is not a good idea.

There is a warning - which is nice. It says the good I am carrying is illegal. I don’t know why exactly, but I thought: Ah f*** it, let’s try and see what happens!

And this is what happened:

During a short intervall, a fine of 28 Mio ISK got deducted from my wallet. Four times. Leaving my wallet with negative 90 Mio. ISK.

Also, a dialog showed up explaining that customs got me and that I have the option to hand over the contraband or they will shoot me otherwise.

That dialog showed up 4 times while I was in the midst of changing systems and no matter what option I chose in the dialog: The contraband stayed with me and the fine got deducted from my wallet - until I reached Jita and finally offloaded the curse.

I could have dropped the contraband anywhere - to avoid all but the first fine - in hindsight. But I could have not tried to smuggle … so yeah.

After a short exchange with support, I learned that this is the “intended game mechanic”, and I understood what actually happened.

When I entered a new system, I chose the next jump gate and hit “dock”, meaning: warp to the jump gate and dock more or less immediately. In that short time frame between arrival and docking, customs scanned my cargo each time and offered me the dialog.

Remember: The dialog said: We got you. We will shoot you unless you hand over the contraband.

What the dialog did not say: “When you chose to move on, we can’t shot you but we can deduct a hefty fine even when your wallet has a negative balance”.

Because of the way I warped and docked, the dialog was obsolete. I only ever read it when I was already jumping.

What to make out of all of this?

Smuggling is not worth it - haha.

The current way highsec smuggling works, basically means: just do not ever do it.

But apart from being broke, I have questions …

Where is this mechanism documented? Could I have known better - apart from general precaution and scattered hints about contraband smuggling in some forums?

Is that “intended game mechanic” useful in any way? It has the potential of ruining a wallet (mine) and it does not offer any interesting game aspect.

In general: Why does some government agency have access to my wallet? libertarian screeching Why can I get fined when my wallet is negative?

Any comment is appreciated.

Also, any suggestions how I can recover is appreciated, too.

That is intended and it has lots of interesting game aspects. First of: You are stupid for doing that in the first place and getting caught. You are moving illegal goods through policed space. What do you think will happen? That is one interesting aspect. Secondly, there are routes around high sec with no or only few customs agents on gates, which is something you have to find before you go on an illegal goods distribution spree like a numpty. That is another interesting aspect.

They are. A simple preferedsearchengine search would have told you that Customs NPC scan ships and will fine you. Even the ingame Show Info windows for the items tell you you will get fined.

Why not? ISK in EVE is virtual. You can add or subtract any amount regardless of actual balance. If you go negative, you just have to work your way back out of the negatives. Repent for your stupidity and your crimes. That is another interesting aspect. Your illinformed, illmotivated and illprepared actions have consequences.

Don’t you dare to complain about the harsh response. You have been in EVE for over 7 years, you ought to know better to inform yourself before you start a shady business.
Besides: What would you even smuggle these days? Drugs are legal now and the Trade Goods are no where near worth the effort and risk of wrecking your wallet if you get caught.

It’s hard to say if it’s a useful mechanic or not. It’s clear they originally were trying to show the EVE universe as being edgy, dark, somewhat like the Wild West where the law only reaches as far as the marshal’s gun.

As it is in game now, I don’t believe there are any ‘useful’ ways to work with contraband - while you might pick it up cheap in one place, go through some contortions, and sell it for a profit in another - almost any other activity would make you more money.

In general, you do get fairly frequent warnings against carrying contraband (when you find it, or read it etc), so it’s kind of a case of “Hey, you chose poorly”. EVE doesn’t go out of its’ way to prevent you from making mistakes.

You took time and effort to point out how stupid I was/am. OK, I am stupid. Smuggling contraband is stupid.

You might be overshooting in your post, though. Also, please be aware that I played 7 years ago but I had a 7 years break, so you might as well treat me as a newbie.

Customs threatened to shoot me or to confiscate my cargo. This is what I expected. The fine came unexpected.

There are - as far as my google searches revealed - no routes you can take through highsec to make the smuggling interesting. The whole smuggling thing is just a “don’t even try” at the moment.

The in-game info does not contain any information on fines.

You only find out, once it happens to you.

I guess there are unnecessary high punishments. I already lost ships in highsec because of ganks - and I don’t mind that because it’s part of the thrill. A wallet balance turning negative is lame. And there is no strategizing player behind that, no intelligent enemy - it’s just part of that “you can smuggle, technically, but you don’t want to” mechanism.

For smuggling to work you need to find the gates that don’t have any custom officers around. That’s tricky to do and I’m not 100% sure there’s always a way everywhere without any, but there might be enough ways to get “close enough”.

They change gate from downtime to downtime.

Been years since I cared about this. :smiley:

Btw, I’m not convinced customs shooting anyone is actually much of a big deal, but I never actually tried that. Time for a test-run! :smiley:

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Thanks for your comment.

The Wild West of Eve is appreciated.

This, however, is a case of overreaching state legislature, rather. It’s the FEDs (or something) that f***** me up :wink:

So in my case, yes, I should have shot.

Even if they had killed me, the loss overall would have been minor compared to bankruptcy with debts on top.

Wow I didnt even know smuggling would be a thing or even profitable done right. Also I only find old forum posts about it without information on what you could earn doing this.

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Yeah. Take my misfortune as a warning.

Thanks yeah I am a nullsec crab running around with my super when I need money, but the whole smuggling thing just sounds interesting at least but like I said I didnt really find much information about that topic other then it exists and its about small arms, slaves and some drugs. Thing is I wouldnt even have a clue where to bring that stuff other then main trading hubs where I guess noone really wants to buy it, at least not players.

If that’s what the dialogue box said, than it’s misleading information. As you said, the text should have given you a hint that you’d be fined repeatedly at each system. EVE has too many of these unclearly/ambiguously written messages from NPCs. Especially in missions.


I think this demonstrates a need to either cut the mechanic from the game or gut and overhaul the system into something better.

Preferably some kind of pvp capture the flag with smugglers and deputised customs officers.


Might as well delete the character, 90m is measly pennies for an old player, but new player? it’ll take you a long while to recover, if you know how.

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Literally no different than banking today.

You try and make a purchase for $5, but you only have $4 in the account. You get a message from the bank saying you went over your balance by $1, and so they’re assessing a $25 fee. So now your account is -$26. If you made several purchases that day, and they all cleared at once, you’d be assessed a $25 fee for each one, and you’d end up very much in the negatives.

As the others have said, this is the result of electronic banking. Money isn’t money anymore, it’s just numbers in a computer. And numbers can be positive or negative. Which simply means that the next time you profit from something, it goes towards cancelling out your debt.

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Possible practical solutions:

  • Buy PLEX for real money and sell them. Help pay for a few minutes of a CCP dev’s salary cost and some of his/her living expenses. Cost: approximately US $22 (at Rens prices). Estimated % chance of success: 100
  • Ask Mike Azariah for funds from his Magic School Bus Operation or Sindel Pellion for funds from her Angel Project. I don’t know whether either are still active. Estimated % chance of success: ???
  • Join a nice guys corp and ask your new buddies for a loan, so you can buy ammo, etc. Estimated % chance of success: 1-2
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I heard NEFOS (New Eden Foundation for Overeager Smugglers) took care of the problem…

But remember: Crime doesn’t pay! :wink:


Mike Azariah is very much still active with his magic schoolbus project and other things. He’s on holiday irl for a couple weeks atm, though.

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I actually ejected illegal cargo upon being caught once and they killed the can


Thanks! I will look into this. That magic school bus sounds … interesting.

Can you get the Illegal goods and do a courier contract to an alt ? Isnt it just a plastic warp while its in the contract. No idea if it would work or if anyone has tried it