Why Criminals Want To Give You Virtual Money

Photo by Ryan Moulton on Unsplash

Over the past few years there has been a paradigm shift in the world of computer gaming, whether on a consoles, computers and mobile devices, where the focus is no longer on just selling you a game. Instead, the focus has shifted on you buying an in-game currency or virtual currency that allows you either unlock additional content or offers some advantage or cosmetic difference on how your game character(s) look within the game. As a result, this is raking in hundreds of millions for some game developers and the criminals have taken note.

Many of the games are technically free, and there are millions of players that do not buy in-game currency, but the downside is that progress within the game is extremely slow. So, the criminals offer as bait, free in-game currencies like Fortnite’s V-Bucks or Robux from the gaming platform Roblox, potentially worth hundreds of pounds. So, what do the criminals get out it? Many of the scams have a survey component, gleaning personal information that many would not normally give, followed by your username and password for the gaming account concerned. To top it off, you may be asked to share your friends email addresses with the promise of more in-game currency or to buy (via a credit card) reduced rate currency.

Okay, I hear many of you saying, how bad can it be, it’s just a gaming account. The problem is password reuse, together with all the personal and financial information you (or your children) may have just given away allowing for credential stuffing, credit card fraud and a whole host of methods to deliver malware (for example, download and run this to claim your reward) or fake apps. The problem is so big that there are over 4000+ registered web domains trying to scam people around just the game Fortnite alone. These often appear as YouTube videos showing how to ‘hack’ the game to earn vast amounts of in-game currency.

There is also market for selling gaming account credentials to other gamers for accounts that have spent large amounts of in-game currency or made major progress within the game. But now criminals are buying gaming accounts off other criminals, as many of these accounts are part of a wider gaming platform (eg Nintendo or Sony) or a publisher (eg Epic Games or Electronic Arts) it is possible to by in-game currency that can be ‘gifted’ to others. This allows the criminals to buy in-game currency worth hundreds for other games using the credit or debit card linked to the account and send it to themselves to sell on.

Remember, there is no such thing as a free lunch, and if someone is offering you something for free, potentially worth a lot of money, it is probably more than likely a scam. Best to protect yourself with the free two-step (2FA) verification offered by many of these games and gaming platforms to protect your account and not be lured in by the bait of free in-game currency.

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