Please read this post for important context relating to this announcement. This blog post is a direct follow-up.
Last week, we announced that we would be requiring that sellers add and verify a phone number in order to deposit items. Since then, we've been reading your comments and listening to what you have to say. We'd like to offer this follow-up to show you what we've learned, what actions we're taking, and provide some clarity on the reason we're making these changes.
tl;dr: Following your feedback, we will allow verified addresses as an optional alternative to verifying a phone number. In addition, we are delaying this change until May 7th, 2019 in order to allow time for affected sellers to verify their address or phone number.
When we made the decision to require phone number verification, we did so under the assumption that our sellers all had access to a phone number capable of receiving texts. We assumed this because, in order to deposit items, sellers need to register a phone number with Steam and use the Steam Mobile Authenticator. However, we learned that some of our users do not have access to a phone number presently, even if they had one in the past to set up Steam.
Additionally, many users are understandably trepidatious about providing a phone number to a third-party website. While we guarantee never to spam or solicit our users via SMS or robocalls, we understand that many users have a very strict personal security policy whereby they simply do not share their number with third-party websites.
Finally, we learned that our reasoning for making these changes was not presented in the best way. Many users do not feel they received an adequate explanation for why we are adding additional verification requirements.
In response to user feedback, we realize that we need to provide an alternative verification measure that does not require a phone or phone number.
To that end, a verified address will now suffice as an alternative to a verified phone number. We think this is an acceptable compromise for those few users who are unable to verify a phone number: verification is still required, but entirely possible without a phone.
Verifying your address is extremely simple:
Domestic (US) postcard deliveries typically take under a week, while international deliveries are less predictable and may take longer.
Marketplace.tf has grown considerably since we initially opened up the ability for any Steam user to sell items. Since that time, we have seen numerous instances of scammers and fraudsters stealing items and liquidating them on Marketplace.tf. While we work to ban these users and delist their items, we often cannot do this before the items have sold. Additionally, banning seller accounts does not prevent them from creating another account.
In order to effectively combat scammers, and ensure that only legitimate users are selling items on Marketplace.tf, we need to have some form of verification on sellers. We need to be able to link accounts together using physical attributes -- phone number, address, etc. -- so that we can enforce bans on seller accounts. We cannot in good faith ban an account while doing nothing to ensure an alt account is not immediately created by the banned user.
Quite frankly, Marketplace.tf deals with real money, and so must be held to a higher standard than other TF2-related websites. This demands that we take our position seriously; this is not just a TF2 website, but an e-commerce platform. With that comes additional moral and technical responsibilities that we must take seriously.
We have no interest in providing scammers or fraudsters a safe haven. We owe it to our legitimate users to prevent illegitimate users from liquidating their ill-gotten goods.
These new restrictions apply solely to depositing items. That is, you will not in any way be locked out of your account, the funds you've earned, or the items you've already deposited. You will be free to withdraw or sell items already on your account; the only restriction is that you must verify to deposit more items.
All sensitive user information is encrypted using extremely strong industry-standard cryptography. We do not believe in "security through obscurity". We do not roll our own crypto.
There is no circumstance under which we would seek to financially gain from the sale of user information. It will never happen.
Further, we are entirely self-funded, and plan to remain as such forever. The only shareholders in our company are the two owners (I'm one of them!), who are not beholden to any other moneyed interests.