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There are several rings of users that appear to be maintained by the same individual. I started digging into some suspicious activity by one user, uncovered a group of four that I found suspicious, and escalated to the Community Manager team.

It seems I may have struck the tip of an iceberg. They dug in further with more advanced investigative tools and identified several additional problematic accounts (possibly run by separate individuals). They have advised that I should delete puppet accounts, and I started that process yesterday. I fully intend to continue doing so as we find problem accounts.

If you are taking part in this behavior, please stop. Please also take corrective action now to reach out using the Contact Us link and request that all of your accounts be merged. If you help us clean up your accounts, it's a lot less messy than if we have to go in and do it for you.

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    I know that we get the accidental ones with new users sometimes where you get a couple of accounts with no user name, etc setup, but I think it is right to apply the rules on any ones created deliberately. – Dave Humm Feb 22 '17 at 16:06
  • Yes even with those accounts we ideally want them to be merged. There's no assumption of malice, but that doesn't mean the behavior can't be abusive by accident. – Adrian Larson Feb 22 '17 at 16:07
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    FWIW, we can recover post ownership even for deleted accounts if you can prove you're the owner (slightly more difficult than a normal merge, but not out of the question unless you're using throw-away emails or something). – Shog9 Feb 22 '17 at 18:43
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    @AdrianLarson one query if any user is removed and I lost few points (he might upvoted my post) so can I check which post is that? – Tushar Sharma Feb 23 '17 at 12:35
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    @TusharSharma I was wondering the same thing a while back and I'm not quite sure we can. – Adrian Larson Feb 23 '17 at 14:12
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If you are participating in this behavior, please stop. If you actively maintain more than one account, they are all at risk for deletion, or at the very least vote invalidation.

The below Meta post is written by one such Community Manager, and he lays out the reasons this behavior is problematic and when it is acceptable (just don't expect duplicate accounts to hang around). While that post does recommend moderators simply suspend the users involved, the CM team seems to have hardened their stance and they are now advising me to delete sock puppets.

Please read How should sockpuppets be handled on Stack Exchange? Of note:

When should sockpuppets be considered a problem?

There are a handful of legitimate reasons to maintain multiple accounts. A good rule of thumb for identifying abusive socks is: if the second account allows you to do something on the site that your normal account would be prevented from doing, it is abuse. Examples of this include (but are not limited to):

  • Voting on your own posts
  • Answering your own questions with the other account(s)
  • Casting multiple votes on others' posts
  • Supporting your own arguments ("+1: shog is right, don't know why the rest of you don't realize this")
  • Using bounties to circumvent the rep cap
  • Circumventing suspensions, quality bans, or the rate limits on posting questions / answers / comments / etc.

And also:

You mentioned valid uses for sockpuppets; what are they?

I've probably had a half dozen or so alternate accounts over the course of the site. They're useful sometimes: testing bugs that only show up at low rep levels, reminding yourself what the site "feels like" for someone with only the basic abilities, maintaining a highly unnatural q/a ratio... That said, I always treat these as disposable accounts, and some of them have been removed (either automatically or via mod intervention) when I crossed a line somewhere - you should never assume that a sockpuppet is "protected" if you're actively using multiple accounts on one site; it's entirely too hard to be certain you're not interacting in some inappropriate fashion.

  • Hi I am trying to merge my account A to B but I am getting B to A, how to manage that, and when A is merged to B do I keep the ownership of questions and answers I asked with A, thank you ? – benahm Mar 23 '17 at 8:49
  • @benahm I have no idea. If you tell the CM team which account you want to "win", I think they can make it happen. – Adrian Larson Mar 23 '17 at 12:38

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