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Stay in the Game, Don't Be Fooled By Gaming Fraud

A woman playing a computer game.
The video game industry is lucrative, and scammers have taken notice. Learn about the tactics scammers use for gaming fraud and how you can steer clear from their scams.

The prevalence of the video game industry is no joke. Whether they're mobile games, traditional console games, or popular PC games, it's hard to go a day in your life without being exposed to video games.


And the industry is lucrative. In 2023 alone, video games generated $406 billion worldwide.[1]


But as video game companies tweak and perfect their monetization systems, scammers are licking their lips and looking for any way to take advantage. Where there's profits to be made, there's scammers.


We're going to dive into some of the most common types of gaming fraud and what you can do to minimize the risk of yourself, family, and friends falling victim to them.



Most Common Types of Gaming Fraud

In the gaming world, phishing techniques are the primary tactics of choice for scammers.


Since a significant portion of the gaming population is aged 18 or younger[2], it's a lot easier for scammers to create a convincing narrative that tricks players into willingly giving up their accounts, in-game items, and more.


That's not to say there's no hackers, because there are. We'll expose their role later.


Account Phishing

Scammers will spam messages all over social media, chat apps, and even in-game chatrooms, making attractive promises to players, like getting free in-game items or cheating tools. All it takes, these scammers often say, is navigating to their fraudulent website and logging in.


Whether the website is meant to look like the official game developers' site, or it advertises itself as a third-party service, it's all the same and the promises are too good to be true. These sites collect the login details of anyone who tries entering their info on them; whether that’s through a fake login portal they ask users to punch their usernames and passwords into, or through key logging techniques.


Scammers often target popular and profitable games for these efforts. Profitable games are usually ones where users can purchase in-game items with real money, which can then be traded to other users or sold for actual cash.


Instead of cashing out an account's in-game items and currency, sometimes scammers will change the login details of that account to lock out the victim. The scammers then turn around, and sell the account to someone else, who has no idea that this account was stolen.


In-Game Item and Currency Phishing

Scammers engaging in item and currency phishing follow practically the exact same procedure as those who are engaging in account phishing.


The only real difference is that these scammers are more focused on what items and in-game currency victims’ accounts hold. Accounts will be squeezed dry of all their items, especially valuable ones, having them transferred and traded away to scammers’ accounts.


Even if the victim can recover their account following the scammer’s intrusion, they’ll find their account an empty husk of what it was, with their items gone and a ton of progress reset.


Furthermore, many video game developers and companies don’t offer remediation or rollbacks in these instances. The responsibility is squarely on the players, and there’s often a “we told you not to get hacked” sentiment from these companies. In most cases, there’s no other remediation.


Fake Games

Popular games always inspire copycats, but malicious apps and games take it to the next level.


Instead of trying to copy a game's style or gameplay, scammers will build a program or an app designed to steal confidential information, and will try to pass it off as the original, legitimate game.


Upon installing this program, it can do anything from keylogging its victim to stealing account details and credit card information.


This kind of gaming fraud is most prevalent in the mobile gaming space. But generally, Google and Apple do a sufficient job of reviewing apps on their stores.


That's why scammers advertise these "unlocked" or free versions of paid apps and tell users to navigate away from official Google and Apple platforms to instead download these apps on their own sketchy websites.


In other instances (specifically for PC games), scammers may create an entirely new game from the ground-up but inject malware into the game's code to run on a player's computer. From that point, the malicious game can log anything between keystrokes to browsing history, can steal all sorts of private information, and could even incorporate the victim’s device into a botnet.


All the while, on the surface, it appears to the player that there’s nothing wrong or malicious with the game.



Defend Against Gaming Fraud

The best defense against these gaming fraud tactics is to be mindful and aware of them. That way you, your family, or your friends will be able to clearly spot these scams and steer clear.


But, of course, there’s other actionable steps you can take to minimize your risk of falling victim to gaming fraud.


Don’t Click on Suspicious Links

When you see a hefty promise for in-game benefits, whether it’s through a sponsored social media ad or someone bragging about it in a chatroom, don’t take the bait and don’t click any links.


If it’s too good to be true? It is. This rule of thumb has stood the test of time and encompasses more than just gaming fraud and good cyber hygiene.


If you find yourself being motivated by a sense of urgency to capitalize on an offer and click a link, take a breath and recollect yourself. Think critically about the offer you’re being given and determine how realistic that offer is.


Scammers leverage urgency to get victims to fall for their ploys, and keeping this in mind will protect you from all sorts of scams.


Don’t Share Your Personal Information or Login Details

No matter what promises are being made or what testimonials scammers seem to have, don’t share your account login information with them.


Game developers and their customer support services will never ask for your password or detailed personal information. If you engage with a developer or customer support that does ask for that confidential information, don’t tell them a thing. It’s a surefire bet that’s a scammer.


Download Games and Apps From Official Sources

When you need your gaming fix, only purchase and download your games through official sources such as Steam, the Epic Games Store, Google Play Store, the Apple App Store, or GOG.


If in doubt, perform research on the source you’re thinking of purchasing from. Be very careful in these instances, because some websites look legitimate on the surface but are extremely shady under the hood. G2A, for example, is a hotbed for scammers reselling stolen game codes and overcharging would-be customers.


And lastly, only download mobile games from official app stores. Never download mobile games from external, third-party sources or you run the risk of infecting your device with a myriad of malware.


Install Reputable Antivirus Software and Keep it Updated

Minimize your risk as much as possible by using a reputable, trusted antivirus program. While it’s not a guarantee you’ll be protected against every threat you come across, credible antivirus programs will do an incredible amount of heavy lifting to keep your device secure.


Keeping your antivirus software and your system software up to date is just as important. A lot of malware takes advantage of vulnerabilities that are present in outdated system software and program software.


And oftentimes, these software versions are rendered outdated because new updates have been released to patch those vulnerabilities.



Bring Your A-Game

Video games are omnipresent in our society today, and in many ways the innerworkings of video game communities are a microcosm of society at large. That’s taking into consideration both the good and the bad.


Scammers and hackers aren’t unique to video games, but many people just don’t have an awareness of the sorts of scams and dangers that underly gaming’s surface, particularly online gaming.


But with this knowledge in tow, you’re equipped to look out for these potential dangers. Now you’re informed, and you can empower your friends and family, especially those who are younger, with the same information.


You’ve got the power to make sure a weekend gaming session doesn’t spiral into account compromises and financial losses.




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