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Video games: tools of fraud and money laundering

It seems as though video games (particularly online games) have increasingly become an area of opportunity for criminals to exploit. We have previously discussed about how cyber-thieves are after your data, but it seems there is much much more to it than that. 

The fact of the matter is, even if you have been lucky enough not to have ever been the victim of fraudsters and hackers, you will probably know someone who has. It will come as no surprise to most that Money laundering is known to occur within the hidden confines of popular games, because more hackers and phishers are now targeting the gaming community. This needs to be discussed in order to prevent the further victimization of any unwary gamers out there.

CS: GO Was a Haven for Money Launderers

Counter Strike has been a perennial favorite of gamers the world over. Starting off as a "mod" of the classic game Half-Life - Counter Strike became its own animal. The theme of Terrorists and Counter-terrorists battling to either protect/save hostages and/or key locations hit a chord with many gamers. Although not the first popular “arena” shooter game, Counter Strike is considered by many as the most influential of the sub-genre. It became the benchmark by which other quick action shooter games would be measured against in later years.

In the current gaming environment, the current iteration of Counter Strike is CS: GO which is generally played through the Steam platform. The classic game-play of the original Counter Strike has been updated with better graphics, more options, and micro-transactions. However, that last feature mentioned is where the problem regarding money laundering arose.

According to news sources, Valve reports cyber-thieves have exploited the CS: GO feature of selling loot keys for opening the randomly allocated loot boxes to launder real currency online. How it worked is that the culprits would buy a loot box key and loot boxes with “dirty money” (i.e. money from criminal activities) and then trade them to players using the platform - for cash. Because loot keys and loot boxes have had a stable value (and sometimes higher or lower, depending on the trend), it was a relatively viable scam. 

Valve, the company behind CS: GO, has addressed this by locking keys to a players personal account. However, this only covers the CS:GO game. A similar system of loot boxes and loot box keys exist in many other online games today.

You Probably Know Someone Who has Been the Victim of Fraud

Whether you are a gamer yourself or not, you may well know someone that has been the victim of video game fraud. The ratio is actually one in five gamers. So it is more than likely you know someone in your social circle who has experienced this unfortunate situation. This is how prevalent the problem is now days.

Financial fraud is a crime that has been around almost since the idea of currency was invented. In terms of the online gaming environment, financial fraud stems from convenience. Many gamers use various platforms to save their financial information, to make payments - either to buy games or for micro-transactions.

The most common targets today are the gamers playing MMOs (like World of Warcraft & StarCraft 2), MOBA's (like DOTA 2, League of Legends), and Battle Royale type games (like PUBG, Fortnite) and various other desktop or mobile platforms seem to have an equal level of fraudster and phishing activities.

How Can Gamers Protect Themselves?

A simple way of protecting yourself as a gamer from these cyber-criminals is by being overcautious. It is better to be overcautious than careless. Do not trust people you meet online. Avoid trading for real money online, regardless of the game. Never give out your password. 

If you must make any financial transactions for your gaming needs, use alternative payment methods than your bank or credit card information. PayPal or debit cards allow you to control how much money you are dedicating to your purchases, not just for games, but for most online transactions. This is a very good way to monitor your spending and prevent criminals from bleeding your funds dry.

Finally, if you perform any prior online transactions using an older laptop, PC, or MacBook, make sure to clean your system first using a data wipe tool. This prevents your financial information from falling into the wrong hands. RedKey USB is ideal for this task.

RedKey guarantees a simple to use, but 100% effective data wipe process. This works to erase your digital footprint from your old hard drives and SSDs. You can also purchase RedKey through Amazon, one of the best platforms to do safe online transactions!

Visit the RedKey USB blog regularly for more useful advice, information, news, and tips about gaming, privacy, protection, and technology!