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every few years i email neopets support asking if they can help me log into my childhood account and (unsurprisingly, tiny team, millions of old accounts) i've never heard back
my childhood neopets account recovery was on an email address i haven't had in decades, which was linked to my father's long-defunct aol account. i also used some fake birthday to access the age-limited forums (which you have to provide) so i figured i was locked out for good
but today, when i was writing my biannual email to neopets support, i was like .... wait .......... i bet there has been a neopets hack. they still use http to log in for christsakes! surely there has been a neopets hack
and sure enough, there was a MASSIVE leak in 2013. checked that old email address against the requisite websites, yep, included. it was a bad one. passwords, emails, DOB, IP address - all in plaintext. perfect
a 2013 leak of old neopets accounts is not actually a particularly in-demand document and it took hours of clicking around sketchy forums with my eyes half closed. but eventually i found the download! 5 gb of neopets credentials
found my account somewhere around npdump_200.txt. had the fake DOB and everything (and the incredibly insecure password). went to log in... and obviously somebody had been there before me and changed my password because the hack has been online for 7 years, i mean come on
but it reminded me of why i stopped playing neopets in the first place, which is that neopets took down my organized crime ring based on this exact same circumstance ??
okay so if you weren't on neopets in 2000 or so, the general conceit is you can make some pets, they come in some set colors, and you can do lots of stuff with them including /paint them/ which was like a number #1 way to show off to the general community
as a preteen precriminal, i made a tidy little neopoints profit on "adopting out" painted pets, for slightly cheaper than a neopets paintbrush would run you (which was very expensive). honestly a bit of a puppy farm situation but we all make do
this was not official- neopets had a "pound" where you could drop unwanted pets for adoption. so me and party 2 would get on AIM, they'd buy some overpriced item in my shop , then i'd put the pet up for adoption, they'd search its name at the exact moment, adopt it, done
the way i had painted pets at less than paintbrush prices was because of "the lab ray", which was accessed via the world's longest treasure hunt. but once you assembled the map you got access to a button that basically did something random to one of your pets once a day
so my poor, sweet pets would get zapped until they turned an interesting color, then sold for profit, then i'd make a new pet (which is free), then repeat
eventually this operation grew out of the scale one small child could provide after elementary school in the library. so i decided to start a guild
guilds in neopets are social. you have ranked roles, private forums, an html page you can design yourself (fancy!), etc. mine was invite only. the conditions were thus;
you shall be provided with a lab map. you shall actively be zapping a pet for the guild at all times. i will handle the "adoption". i will pay you a percentage of each adoption fee, after the lab map is paid back.
this goes on for a while, we grow in power, we are small but influential, we are well regarded. i am filthy rich
eventually, though, my avarice grows. i am tired of simply managing others for a portion of profit. i need more accounts
at first, i ask my friends at school. "are you still playing neopets? would you mind if i took over your account? i'll pay you!" then, i'd offer to babysit forum friend's accounts - as long as i could have an empty slot for my experiments
finally, even this is not enough. i start going through the user search and find an account that hasn't logged on in a year or two. i go to log in. i type in their name. i pause at the password. i type password. nope. i type passw0rd. no. i type d0ggy. and i'm in
my friends, THE RUSH I FELT at nine years old, staring at the friendly neopets welcome screen AND FOUR PETS WHO WERE NOT MINE. the adrenaline. the horror. the pride
i was careful. i sat on the account for a week, doing nothing. waiting to see if anyone would notice. tempting them to log back on, to tell me it was not abandoned
at first i just fed the pets. it was practically charity! i played some of the once-a-day games and did well. then, i thought to myself, well they'd notice if their account balance went UP, wouldn't they? i quickly transferred the excess to myself
then i transferred the rest to myself. then i gave the account a lab map. and then, i realized that i would have to cross the unthinkable bridge- this account had 4 pets, the limit at the time. there wasn't an extra slot. for my scheme, i'd have to zap... one of their pets
i want to say i hesitated, but i was nine and drunk on power and i simply did it. the pet transformed from an aisha to, i believe, a buzz. i thought about how they would feel, returning to a totally different species. would they think they had misremembered? imagined it? i smiled
over the course of 6 months, my guild /transformed/. we had a process. we had a hit list of accounts. we collated thousands of probable passwords. we made enemies, and we took them out. we grew exponentially. i turned 10
this went on for some time, and i actually grew a bit bored of it all- lonely at the top, plagued by text files of account names and passwords, my real life friends no longer playing neopets- i handed over day-to-day management of ~Painted Pets Adoption~ to my second in command
until 2002. when paypal happened
up until this point i had not considered that neopoints were good for anything other than virtual bragging rights, and god i'd been rich for so long that what did it even matter anymore. but i was idly trawling the neopets forums, bored and grown up at 11, when -
an offer. someone offering to exchange their neopoints for.. well.... us dollars. it worked much the same way as our own scheme. get on AIM, sell an overpriced item in the shop, send a paypal transfer, shake hands
i was .... immediately fascinated. i floated it with the guild. they were horrified! we had a perfect racket! what was i thinking, i'd get us shut down for sure
i didn't care. i started flipping the guild over, redesigning our friendly "painted pets adoption :-)" page to be something much more sinister. but i misestimated how much power i still held -
i'd been half absent for almost a year, and had given my second in command administrative powers, who had then promoted her own cronies. they kicked me out! of my own guild! but it was too late. i had plenty of power on my own
i set up my first transfer using my personal shop, and it went - flawlessly. some small portion of all my accumulated neopets empire turned into $10 USD in my unverified paypal account. i was /living/.
within a few weeks, i'd repeated the transfer dozens of times with different neopians. i'd never seen so much money in my life. i didn't even know what to do with it! i had some grand vision of ordering a gameboy color on ebay with pokemon yellow AND zelda
i should have stopped there. i could have gotten out. but ... i had a bone to pick with my backstabbing second in command. and i had her login information
i set up an AIM date. i had them set up the shop. i logged into her account. i made the deal. i left her with nothing
and thats when she took 2 and half years of internal conversations, forum posts, text documents, and AIM chats to neopets support and got them to freeze every single account i had ever touched, including my paypal account which i never successfully recovered (being eleven)
every account, that is, but one. it wasn't my main account, but i rather liked it. it had a good username. i played games on it! i had pets on it that were mine
and its that account that i email neopets support about every couple of years, hoping maybe they've forgotten my crimes.
and its that account that i found today in the 5 gb of neopets passwords. and, in some horrible, final twist of justice, that account which has had its password changed
the end
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