You can’t even play anymore: these are the new scams to steal your data and empty your bank account

You can’t even play anymore: these are the new scams to steal your data and empty your bank account

Video games have been one of the “big winners” in recent years, largely thanks to the fact that many discovered (or dedicated more hours) to digital entertainment in the face of isolation policies. Today, with the pandemic in “retreat”, there are an estimated 400 million users globally who generate more than $500 billion a year.

In Argentina, the phenomenon is also growing by leaps and bounds: the number of gamers increased by 20% and 40% of “casual” players now spend more time on these games. This, of course, piqued the interest of cybercriminals.

Why is the use of video games growing?

Jorgelina Pecina, professor of Gaming and Esports Management at UADE, points out to iProUP that there is a growing interest from the public, although esports (professional branch of video games) still need to mature.

“Within the ecosystem, you find the games on streaming platforms, which are the channel through which they have visibility. Facebook Gaming, YouTube and Twitch today have a lot of arrival among young people,” describes the expert.

In addition, this growth of esports has also seduced former professional athletes such as:

  • Sergio “Kun” Aguero, who founded Krü Sports
  • Paulo Dybala joined Furious, a pioneering club in the country
  • Fabricio Oberto, former NBA basketball player and Golden Generation, created Intel New Indians
  • Guillermo Coria, former tennis player, leads New Pampas
  • Diego “Peque” Schwartzman heads Stone Movistar
  • Juan Sebastián “Brujita” Verón, former soccer player and president of Estudiantes de La Plata, created eBRO

Attackers take advantage of the good times in gaming to focus their threats

They are not the only ones who saw a golden opportunity in this business: also cybercriminals, who target those who are just starting out or only see it as a hobby. Fernando Peyretti, FID manager at BDO, points out to iProUP that the video game and electronic sports industry accelerated with the pandemic, in addition to cybercrimes related to the activity.

How can they scam you for playing video games?

“Esports grew a lot. In most games you can buy upgrades or items to advance, and that means you have a lot of people funding accounts nonstop. It’s a fairly new phenomenon,” he warns.

Thus, criminals 4.0 aim to hack player profiles, mainly through phishing. That is, with falsified e-mail to steal data and enter the accounts to make the funds. Also through simple “brute force” attacks, trying “frequent” passwords for the same purpose; or by hacking open WiFi connections.

In this context, Lima points out that there are certain factors to take into account to avoid falling into this type of deception:

  • Buy through official sites or recognized online stores
  • Carry out the operation through a secure connection, avoiding public WiFi networks (bars or restaurants, for example)
  • Access the site of interest from a search engine or by typing the URL
  • Avoid links that arrive by SMS, social networks, WhatsApp or email
  • Do not enter card data more than once in case of system failure
  • Check the possibility of return, since this policy is a sign of trust

But in addition to hacks, there are also platforms that seek to attract users who invest and, in turn, recommend others, in a kind of pyramid scheme 4.0.

How to avoid a pyramid scam in the world of video games?

Peyretti points out that fraud with bonuses is created on some platforms, which is why he stresses that you have to pay attention to those games that offer very attractive benefits for recommending other users, since they can hide a pyramid scheme.

“It is a business scheme in which members are asked to invite or recommend the platform to acquaintances and thus receive a reward, not only monetary but also promotions within the system,” defines Lima.

Credit cards: the main loot sought by attackers

He also points out that “although the growth of the industry was very good for companies in economic terms, fraud was growing at the same time. Today, identity theft is very common and also harms video game companies, which They must compensate the victims.

According to the Argentine Association for the Fight Against Cybercrime provided to iProUP, complaints of digital fraud rose 65% last year, with credit card theft standing out with a quarter of the incidents.

“Then companies have to take charge: for every dollar they lose through fraud, you have to add another three in compensation and litigation costs. They can’t let it go,” Peyreti remarks. As an example, he points to “players who have been winning and empty their account with credit cards stolen or obtained on the dark web.”

But amateur users are not the only targets, but also those who are looking for a place in the gamer scene. The paradigmatic data is that of Joshua Mullins, a 21-year-old American who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the largest global video game scam: he raised at least $42 million.

Mullins posed as a wealthy investor promising hefty dividends to capitalists who wanted in on the business. He signed a representation contract with inexperienced players, which included sponsorships, interviews for ESPN and participation in tournaments. Among the 32 charges against him, the one of forgery of identity and opening of bank accounts in the name of different cyber athletes that he represented stand out.

From 2015 until last year, when he was convicted, Mullins received multimillion-dollar contributions that he “redistributed” among investors and digital athletes, forming a pyramid scheme in the style of the late Bernie Madoff.

The players did not “debut in first”, nor did they hold interviews with the most important sports signal in the world. Investors also didn’t see how the stars began to win tournaments or profit from their representation. Thus, the crime that has all video game lovers on edge broke out.

Brent Dubin
Brent Dubin, known as the Gaming Giant among Globe Live Media staff, is the chief Gaming Reporter for Globe Live Media. Having attended all the major events of Gaming around the World, he is sure to give you exactly the update related to gaming World you are looking for.