As the gaming industry continues to gather steam, it is proving to be a lucrative venture for not just gaming companies, but for fraudsters too. Recent reports by ACI Worldwide and Newzoo show that as many as one in five gamers experience fraud.
However, with the gaming population skyrocketing over recent months, there is even more reason for scammers to capitalize on unsuspecting gamers. In 2020 alone, video gamers have been playing for an average of six hours and 20 minutes weekly – or as much as 110 hours during the stay at home orders. With more gamers forking out over $229 on video games and their ideal virtual reality gaming experience, it is easy to get carried away.
But knowing what to look out for and how to protect yourself can be relatively simple – and it can save you a lot of money and heartache.
One of the most common phone scams in recent years, this scheme focuses on a growing smartphone gaming population.
It starts by asking you to download a game app or supplementary app for your game. Once downloaded, the app begins to make unintentional premium phone calls without the phone owner’s consent.
The only way to spot this is to be vigilant with your monthly mobile bill and cautious about downloading any free mobile games. Look out for signs of a fake mobile gaming app, like the app permissions presented before downloading, and reviews from fellow gamers.
Unlimited Downloads For A One Time Fee
Another popular scam that has been targeting gamers is one that has been around for a while but has proven to be effective.
Scammers send gamers an email or link offering one time, limited access to new gaming levels, or exclusive gaming content downloads for the game – all for the low price of a one-off fee. By getting you to click and enter your credit details, scammers are then able to access your financial details.
They are then able to execute impersonation and unauthorized spending sprees.
Gaming Cheat Sheets And Downloads On Social Media Platforms
Social media plays a large role in keeping the gaming community connected, thanks to constant updates by gaming developers and gaming communities created by fellow fans.
Scammers have now recognized the opportunity that this presents, and are taking advantage of it by spreading false offers of downloadable gaming cheat sheets and rewards.
One good example: the recent Discord QR codes fraud warning in January 2020. In it, scammers publicized fake QR codes that promised free Nitro subscription.
However, gamers that scanned the code ended up giving fraudsters access to their gaming accounts.
However, after asking you for details like your email (and sometimes even your credit card for verification purposes), you are most likely to receive a link to click for your download. It is also not uncommon for gamers to receive emails asking them to confirm their login details on a fake log-in page.
Once selected, these links then enable malicious malware to be downloaded onto your PC system, which gives scammers access to all of your confidential information, including your financial and personal details.
Staying Safe While Gaming
So is there such a thing as being too cautious? In short, no. If you are a parent, start with keeping track of your child’s online gaming activity. Before purchasing a game, check out the PEGI ratings for suitability. You may also want to disable the chat feature in Fortnite or other games.
This allows other players to speak to each other while playing and is an easy way for scammers to capitalize on diverted attention or vulnerabilities. The experts at XBox also recommend activating the family settings on your consoles to avoid unwanted purchases or subscriptions.
As a gamer yourself, you can protect yourself from scams by being able to detect gaming scams’ red flags. Many of these scams often have tactics in common, such as a sense of urgency (pay by *insert date* to avoid missing out) and a sense of belonging (click here to unlock this unique gaming opportunity). Gamers can also set purchase and time restrictions on their gaming time.
Many online and video games require in-app gaming purchases that are linked to your credit or debit card. However, setting spending limits helps to restrict a scammer’s sabotage power if they do get hold of your financial details. If you are going to make an in-app purchase, stay alert for signs of potential payment processing frauds or schemes like hidden fees for gaming download contracts. Look for a merchant account that is PCI compliant and that offers chargeback protection.
You should also avoid responding to any direct messages or emails from unknown addresses or players that ask for confidential information like your financial or account registration details. Your personal information should be just that – personal. So turn on those privacy settings in your game, and when communicating with other gamers, be careful not to share any private information.
Gamers can also stay safe by using 2-factor authentication for PC and online gaming. This requires account holders or anyone trying to access the account to produce additional evidence, such as a randomly generated code sent to your email or mobile phone.
For fraudsters, this significantly diminishes the chances that they can finish the hacking process for your gaming account. Finally, install a VPN when gaming online. This will encrypt all data transferred between your device and the servers, making it difficult for scammers to intercept and capitalize on it.
Don’t let the threat of these gaming scams stop you from enjoying a great gaming experience. Once you implement the right safeguards and are vigilant for potential signs, you can protect yourself, your personal details, and your money.