How Fortnite, an insanely popular game can fuel criminal activities

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We know that games are becoming more and more popular and the gaming business is flourishing by leaps and bounds. For the first time, the gaming business is being treated as an autonomous industry that is now worth more than billions of dollars. Many games that we see or play every day do not have microtransactions unless they are developed by EA. It means you only have to pay for the game once to enjoy everything it offers.

The developers may require you to buy the additional content but that is a debate for another day. While there are games that do not cost as much and to support the developers they have microtransaction programs built-in. It means you can pay to get stuff in the game for many games you can pay to get better weapons and crush other players.

Fortnite is a free to play, game that took the world with a storm when it was released back in 2017. The game is free to play and can be played on all major platforms from mobile phones to computers and consoles. The gameplay is very simple 100 players are dropped in the map through the lobby bus. You need to survive and be the last man alive in order to win the game.

The game has more than 200 million players and in less than 3 years the game has generated billions. Mr. Sweeney who created Epic Games (the developer of Fortnite) in the basement of his parent’s house has skyrocketed in the Bloomberg’s Billionaire Index as a result of the success of the game with the US $7.1 Billion fortune earning him the 201st spot.

The game is free to play so where is all the money coming from? It is coming from the microtransactions the game has. Most games that have microtransactions lure the players into buying by making the game easier for them.

Fortnite did not go in that way, the microtransaction system is purely based into clothes and skins for the character. By spending money you do not get better at playing the game you just look good. Their microtransaction system has nothing to do with the gameplay. That is the reason why people welcomed it. To buy anything in the game you have to use the V-bucks (Fortnite’s in-game currency).

Image: Microsoft store

You can buy V-bucks using the real money and hence any skin that you may like in the game. This is where the problem starts the criminals are using the V-bucks to launder money. Mostly the credit card criminals are using this way to clean their money. An investigation run by the Independent with research by the security company Sixgill revealed the scale of the theft.

The criminals put the V-bucks bought from the stolen Credit cards on a hidden market in Dark web the hidden space of the web that can only be accessed through specialized programs. The put the V-bucks on sale there, the prices are so low that whoever plays Fortnite would want to buy V-bucks from them instead of the game. This is how they ‘clean’ the stolen money.

By posing as potential customers the agents of the Sixgill discover that the people deal in every major language from Arabic, Russian, English, and French all over the world.  Benjamin Preminger a senior analyst at the security firm told the Independent, “Criminals are executing carding fraud and getting money in and out of the Fortnite system with relative impunity. Threat actors [a malicious person or entity] are scoffing at Epic Games’ weak security measures, saying that the company doesn’t seem to care about players defrauding the system and purchasing discounted V-bucks… This directly touches on the ability of threat actors to launder money through the game.”

With 200 million players the game generated around 3 billion since launch. It is unclear how much the criminals made through the money laundering. However, Sixgill found that Fortnite items grossed around $250,000 last year in only 60 days.

Figures show that the amount spent on Fortnite items through the dark web correlates with the amount of popularity the game is gaining. Another internet security firm found out that 53,000 different online scams were somehow related to Fortnite in the September and October last year.

Epic games is yet to make a statement about the whole scenario. Though sharing an account with another person is strictly against the policy of the company. The security analysts are saying that the developers are doing very little to mitigate the crime. Mr. Preminger said, “Epic Games doesn’t seem to clamp down in any serious way on criminal activity surrounding Fortnite, money laundering or otherwise.

While completely stopping such criminal activity is extremely difficult, several steps could be taken to mitigate the phenomenon, including monitoring the transfer of high-value goods in the game, identifying players with large stockpiles of V-bucks, and sharing data with relevant law enforcement agencies.”

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