Video games rose to peak popularity when developers added the internet as a place to play. Online gaming is a change that opened the door to various possibilities for the gaming community. Furthermore, the gamer population grows with the constant evolution of technology, i.e., smartphones, tablets, game apps, and gaming consoles, making it a more profitable industry.
The advent of mobile gaming made playing video games more accessible. As of October 2021, there are 2.2 billion active mobile gamers, which makes up about 28% of the world’s population. In relation to those numbers, mobile gaming revenue is projected to hit $175.8 billion in 2021.
The ease of doing online transactions and streaming are also significant contributors, not just to mobile gaming revenue but the entire video game industry’s revenue. With how lucrative it has become and is still becoming, it’s no surprise that scammers found gamers appealing to target.
Besides other risks like addiction and cyberbullying, online gaming scams take the fun out of video games. As gaming’s target demographic broadened through the years, many consumers will be affected if scammers grow in numbers; hence, more people should be informed about this threat. Beware of online gaming scams and other schemes these days. Read on the article for more information.
Common online gaming scams
Scamming is an old fraudulent practice, only its occurrence is now more frequent because of the numerous ways scammers can do it online. Also, there are more people at risk because of online gaming’s growth. That’s why knowing the usual modus operandi helps a lot.
If you’re well-informed about online scams, you may have heard of the ones included on this list because fraudsters recycle them from previous scams. If not, here are the common online gaming scams you may encounter:
Free and unlimited downloads
In gaming, items are precious because they’re essential to character enhancement. Items like gems and crystals are commonly in demand; however, there’s only so much that a player can obtain by playing since they need to focus on different things when leveling up.
That’s why game developers place options for players to purchase items in the game store. Players with access to credit and debit cards can buy items they can use to upgrade weapons or enhance the abilities and accessories of their characters.
That’s where fraudsters take advantage of unsuspecting players. They use their knowledge of the game and technology to prey on them by offering either or both free and unlimited downloads they can use in a game.
This scam is usually in the guise of a link to an article or video that scammers spread everywhere online, typically on social media. Clicking on these links is dangerous because it can include malware that the scammers put in them to infect your device.
Once your device is infected, the scammers already have stolen your personal information, which they’ll use for personal gain. Aside from malware, they also trick gamers into paying a one-off fee in exchange for free or unlimited downloads. Besides gamers’ money, that scheme is also an attempt to steal their banking information.
Fraudulent item or skin trades
As mentioned above, items are a commodity in video games, especially in online games. Besides the items used to upgrade characters’ skills or essentials for quests and other gameplay errands, there are also skins. Skins are graphic or audio downloads that change the appearance of video game characters.
Skins are purely for aesthetic purposes and do not affect game outcome or abilities. However, they’ve become popular in recent years, and the demand for them in different games can be quite high. They can be earned or purchased in-game by players.
That’s why scammers do their worst by tricking players into trading items and skins to steal their money. They often conduct fraudulent trades outside of the games’ communication channels.
Fraudsters that commit this act will message you in-game or within an online venue where gamers converge, such as Steam, offering to trade with you. They’ll suggest making the trade using other mediums and then reverse the transaction and claim that a fraudster has victimized them.
Unbeknownst to you, they’ve already made the fraud report, giving you no time to refute it. The scammer will get their money back while yours stays with them. Worse, they also run away with your items and skins.
IP address hijacking
Hacking IP addresses is one of the common methods scammers employ to steal personal information from online gamers. The IP address is a unique address that identifies a device on a local network or the internet. It allows devices to send and receive information via the internet.
It’s a tag placed on all your devices’ online activity. Thus, hacking your IP address exposes your banking information and game credentials, among other pertinent details about your identity.
Once a hacker infiltrates your IP address, all the data you receive and send is unprotected. They can steal all of them and use them to hack into your bank and game accounts and steal some more.
Phishing is an age-old fraudulent activity that scammers do, and they’ve also employed it for gamers. Scammers trick gamers into giving them your game credentials and financial information by using various schemes.
They usually use email to phish information from gamers. For example, scammers will send you an email that implores you to do something related to the game you’re playing, like changing your password because it has been compromised.
Phishing emails would normally scare you to make you panic, so you’d give them the information they need. They even go as far as duplicating or using game developers’ credentials such as logos, email templates, and email addresses to make their email believable.
These emails will implore you to click on a link to a fraudulent website where you’ll be putting in the information they need. They use the fake website as a place to store the information they phished.
Paid beta tests
Game developers conduct beta tests to see how their game runs and look into things they can improve for the full version and future updates. They’d enlist the help of gamers for these tests to play the game before its release to gather feedback and first reactions.
There are times where developers will offer different kinds of rewards to beta testers. Some would be in the form of in-game items that would give them a small advantage when the game is released, while others pay them a good amount of money.
Scammers use this to deceive eager gamers and steal their information. They put out a fake advertisement online that their searching for willing players who want to participate in a beta test offering monetary rewards. Some scammers even offer testers the beta version of the game software to make it more appealing.
Keeping kids safe
Video games are still predominantly played by younger gamers. Unfortunately, with all kinds of scammers and fraudulent activities in online games, they’re the most unprotected since they don’t know much about how scams work.
It will fall on the parents to keep their children safe from falling victim to online gaming scams. Here are some of the tips you can follow to protect children gamers from scams:
Don’t give them access to banking information
The primary goal of scams is so that scammers can gain access to financial information and steal your money. Children will be easy targets for trade and download scams, especially if they see that it’s a “good deal.” That’s why it’s better not to give them any access to your banking credentials. However, if they have their own bank account, make sure you talk to them about possible scams.
Use a virtual private network (VPN)
A VPN is a tool you can use to secure the information you send and receive through your IP address. It disguises your IP address as one from another location, making it difficult for hackers to trace any information going through it.
VPNs are easy to install and configure. But, of course, you’ll have to do it yourself and then have your kids use it when they play online.
Monitor their online activity
Scan your kids’ email for any suspicious messages in their inboxes. Remember that they’ll need an email address to receive notifications about news, updates, as well as changing credentials and verifying their identity. Scammers will target player emails to phish pertinent information.
Ensure that their devices’ are updated and with antivirus software
Prevent malware attacks by ensuring that the devices they use are updated regularly. If possible, install antivirus software and enable regular virus scans as an extra precaution.
Editor’s Note on Online Gaming Scams:
If you’ve been a victim of any form of online gaming fraud, report it. You may start by submitting one to the game developers or distributors via email or social media accounts. Responsible gaming companies will help, investigate, and release information about scams that gamers should be aware of.
You can also try reporting the scam to dedicated consumer watchdog websites like Consider The Consumer. We’ll be happy to help you and spread relevant news to other consumers who deserve to be entertained and enjoy gaming like it’s meant to be.
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