Online gaming scams during Pandemic: How to identify and avoid them
This article will help you identify some of the most common online gaming scams, and tips to avoid them.
The world is constantly striving to adopt a new lifestyle owing to COVID-19. Maintaining social distancing, wearing facemasks, working from home, and communication limited to virtual screens has become part of our lives now. In all this, technology is keeping us connected, engaged, and sane. People are turning to the online world for socializing, work, and leisure. In 2020, the online gaming industry boomed, and it is expected to surpass 138 billion in revenue by the end of 2021 (source: Statista).
However, the increased number of online gaming audiences has highlighted many risks, as scammers seek to exploit the pandemic situation. Many online games require in-app purchases, in-game currency, real-world currency (in wallets), thus attract fraudsters. Young people are easy targets for scammers because they are unaware of the risks involved in online gaming.
To provide a better understanding of online gaming scams, we have listed some common scams and tips to prevent them from happening. Keep reading to learn more.
Online Gaming Scams
Gamers are often directed to third-party websites to buy add-ons such as weapons, powers, outfits, etc. However, these websites are fake, and they trick gamers to purchase items or rewards in exchange for money they never receive. Most of the gamers are young – in the UK, 72% of children aged between 12 -15 play online games (2019). This number further increased in 2020, as children were switched to homeschooling due to the COVID lockdown.
It was reported that fraudsters targeted victims through social media and convinced them to leave the game to buy “free” add-ons. Many young players unwittingly spent their parent’s money to buy add-ons and became a victim of the scam.
Fake Mobile Applications
Many gamers become victims of fake applications for console and PC games like Fortnite, Gang Beasts, etc. These games do not have mobile applications, so they are frequently cloned and sold on app stores. Curious players are quick to install the applications believing them to be legitimate. Some apps are not that harmful, but others are much more dangerous as cybercriminals create fake apps to add malicious software, or malware pop-ups to extract data from users.
Cybercriminals do not only target bank accounts, but they also target gaming accounts. Scammers use malware programs to takeover player’s IDs and passwords. Once scammers breach the account, they have access to all the information including credit/debit card details, and virtual gaming goods that are worth a lot of money.
The main reason for this scam to be so common is due to weak password practices. Many players have weak passwords or single passwords for multiple accounts. Therefore, their gaming accounts are more vulnerable to scammers.
PlayStation 5 Scam
Sony launched its next-generation console PS5 in November 2020. Gamers were desperate to purchase the new PlayStation, and the increasing demand gave scammers a chance to trick unsuspecting customers. Scammers launched fake websites with offers and discount deals to con buyers. Some websites used Tesco’s branding to announce the unofficial pre-order site. It was cleared by Tesco’s spokesperson that they are not affiliated with any of the websites. The retailer added, “Please do not use these sites to pre-order a PS5 or Xbox”.
Phishing is the most common scam in every industry, and for gaming, it is no different. Fraudsters send email links to ask users to confirm their login information and passwords. If gamers click the link, they are directed to a fake sign-in page where they are asked to input their log-in game details – causing them to lose their account information to fraudsters.
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How to Avoid Online Scams? 7 Tips for online gaming safety
- Watch out for fake mobile applications, check the app’s ranking on Google Play or App Store before downloading. Also, cross-check the app’s developer name on other platforms, and if you cannot find it anywhere it is fake. Another tip is to check the game’s official website for all the updates and game-related information.
- For websites, it is important to check signs of safe and reliable sites such as SSL certificate – “HTTPS” in the URL. Also, double-check the domain, the real ones have .org or .com in the end.
- Phishing scams can be avoided by double-checking the sender’s email. It is hard to detect fake emails, but they have some discrepancies such as one or two unusual characters, and phone numbers containing more than 10 digits. Also, do not respond to emails from unknown senders. If you receive any fake emails report them to the game provider immediately.
- Use two-factor authentication for additional security, especially for games that require monthly payments or have microtransaction options. Nowadays, a lot of gaming companies ask for two-factor authentication – it is a clever way to add extra security to your gaming account.
- Protect your gaming accounts with strong passwords from being infiltrated. Change your passwords regularly to avoid using the same one for long. Also, use password checkers to verify them as they evaluate the strength of the password.
- Parents must keep a check on their children’s gaming accounts, make sure they are using an authorized game version, and the content of the game is appropriate.
- Install anti-virus software to protect your computers from malware and malicious content.
In times where we are forced to stay at home and limit our social interactions, we need activities to stay sane and busy. Online gaming is one such activity that is keeping our lives interesting and entertaining. Despite the risks we have outlined in this article, it is important to be socially connected. We are confident that with the information provided in this article you will stay safe and secure from online scams and frauds during the pandemic and beyond.
Have you been scammed? Let us know in the comments below.
Learn more>> 4 steps can protect you from being scammed
We have a team of professionals who investigate the fraud cases thoroughly and provides detailed analysis with documents necessary to report a scam or fraud to higher authorities. We aim to evaluate each case with full attention and resolve them in a manner that the victim gets closure as soon as possible.