If you’ve spent any time in the online gaming world, you know that it attracts millions of people every day — many of whom only use the Internet for gaming. Unfortunately, however, major platforms like Steam and Battle.net don’t just attract law-abiding citizens with healthy gaming habits. They also serve as magnets for cybercriminals.
At the tail end of 2015, for instance, Steam reported that about 77,000 of its users’ accounts are hacked every month, specifically with regard to Steam Trading. It’s a worrisome figure, but if you know how criminals make money from gamers, you can take steps to protect yourself.
Free Cheats or Downloads
Gamers are always on the lookout for cheats and item downloads that can give them an edge in their favorite games. Cybercriminals prey on this desire by posting “free cheats” or downloads on social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube. They offer a video you must watch or an article you have to read to get the goodie.
This sounds innocuous enough, but the scammer can include malware with the download or offer an attractive offer for a script or piece of software with a cheat code. When you click the link to download the content, it infects your computer with malware that can steal personal information or provide access to your computer.
Just recently, in fact, CSO warned gamers about scams that involve hacks for the popular Warcraft game Hearthstone. Some of the nefarious scripts will simply corrupt the game, but others contain malware that might compromise your Bitcoin wallet or attempt some form of identity theft.
In the good old days, money laundering typically took place offline through common businesses. Today, however, it often happens online, thanks to the digital currencies that make funds difficult to track as they’re exchanged among users. While this might not impact individual users who don’t engage in criminal activity, it could have unforeseen consequences.
For instance, If you buy virtual currencies like Bitcoins, you might inadvertently involve yourself in criminal activity. As law enforcement agencies attempt to monitor and track money-laundering schemes, they expose the weaknesses in these systems and can unwittingly target innocent users.
Gamers take their online gaming items seriously, so when an opportunity to make a quick buck appears, they often seize advantage of it. For instance, a fellow Steam user might send you a message offering to buy items from you at a premium, suggesting that you make the trade outside of Steam. You receive the money via PayPal or some other money-transfer platform and you send the buyer his or her items.
However, the scam artist reverses the transaction by claiming that he or she is the victim of fraud. Since you don’t know about the report of fraud, you can’t refute the claims in time to stop the reversal. The scammer gets his or her money back and you don’t have your items any longer.
Dedicated cybercriminals can spend months gathering information about potential victims. They often target people who don’t seem very Internet savvy because it’s easier to take advantage of them. They’ll observe the victim’s online behavior, getting to know his or her friends and gaming strategies.
Impersonations are common with this type of scheme. The scam artist will create an account and pretend to be the victim’s friend. The scam artist says that he or she has created a new account or is using a friend’s account. Then the scammer asks to “borrow” the victim’s in-game items or asks about personal information.
It works more often than most people would like to admit. Unfortunately, this type of scam becomes hard to trace because victims don’t want to admit they were duped.
Mobile gamers aren’t immune to potential criminal activity. In one scam, for instance, the victim downloads a free game for his or her smartphone. While the victim plays, the app secretly makes international and premium-line calls, racking up hundreds or even thousands of dollars in charges.
Another mobile scam involves malware. The user receives an invitation to participate in some form of survey or quiz in exchange for free items for the game. When he or she downloads the items, the malware attaches itself to the phone and can siphon information, from phone numbers to digital wallets, from the device.
Protecting yourself from scams on Steam and other gaming platforms takes work, but you don’t want to lose money — or worse, your identity. If you protect your personal information and avoid temptation, you won’t fall prey to any of the scams listed above.