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What’s the harm in spending some time breaking candies, conquering crossword puzzles, and beating online opponents? Critics have a lot to say about the consequences of too much gaming. But cybersecurity experts will tell you there’s more to worry about than just screen addiction.
It turns out that scams take all the fun out of gaming apps for about 1 in 5 of the 147 million people who plays. Mobile app and game fraud costs players $1.6 billion in the first half of 2020, and the pandemic has only made things worse. Cybercriminals have taken advantage of the vulnerability and limitations of COVID-19 to commit various types of e-fraud against unsuspecting Americans, while turning to game apps for entertainment and distraction.
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Here are some of the sneakiest ways hackers can take your money — and sometimes steal your most sensitive personal information — if you just want to have a good time.
#1 “Romantic Scammers” Sneaking Into Your DMs
The unscrupulous scammers known as romantic scammers like to prey on your kindness and generosity.
Many online games have private chat components, and this is where scammers can contact you under the guise of friendship or romance, gain your trust, claim some sort of financial hardship, and eventually convince you to cash or even send money via gift card. They prefer the latter method “because that way they can get money quickly and remain anonymous”, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). There have been an alarming number of people who lost all their savings, drop by drop, to romance scams.
Romance Scam Losses Reported in 2020 [in general] reached a record $304 million, an increase of about 50 percent from 2019,” the FTC reports. Criminals can play with your heart (and your bank account) on many platforms — including social media and messaging apps — but online games are probably where you’d least expect them. And that’s how they like it.
If you suspect that someone you talk to on an online gaming platform is trying to scam you, the FTC proposes the following::
Cut communication immediately.
Do a reverse image search of the person’s profile picture to find out if it’s associated with another person’s name.
Search for the type of job that person has, along with the word “scammer” and see if anyone has reported a known-sounding scam of that type of employee.
#2 Thieves and phishers disguised as the keepers of cheat codes and game tips
We all love a good hack – no, not That kind of hacking. We’re talking game hacks: the tips, tricks, and “cheat” codes that we can use easily and without actually cheating of course. Avid gamers gather in online messaging forums to share this kind of information, and some malicious actors may see this as a ripe opportunity to defraud ambitious players for money or financial information.
These hackers can spam message boards with links or even contact users directly and offer things like cheat codes, boosts and upgrades in exchange for payment. But once you hand over your dollars or credit card numbers, you never receive the goods. However, you notice fraudulent purchases on your cards and realize that you are the one who has been scammed. And if you are asked to click on a link to receive your tips, you may also be downloading dangerous malware onto your device.
Lesson learned: Never offer a payment to an anonymous person you “meet” online. Instead, make use of the cheat codes and other tips that are available to the online public for free. And pay attention to what you click on.
3. Credential stuffers that guess and hijack your username and password
Do you often use the same usernames and passwords for all your online accounts? This is a common but dangerous habit, and experts warn that it is one of the easiest ways for hackers to access those online accounts, including your game profile, which contains your payment information.
Scammers usually gain access through a data breach, where a multitude of usernames and passwords are released at once. They then use these login combinations on many online platforms in an attempt to hijack accounts, taking advantage of the fact that many people simply reuse the same login credentials.
This type of crime is called credential stuffing. And online entertainment is one of the most common types of attacks.
To keep your online gaming fun and worry-free and reduce your risk of credential stuffing attacks, the FTC recommends use long, complex and unique passwords for all. If this isn’t your forte, consider outsourcing the work to a password manager – a cyber tool that automates the process of creating, protecting, and storing passwords for you.
Also, enable multi-factor authentication whenever possible when logging into an online account. And keep an eye on all dark web activity by signing up for alerts (such as through a credit monitoring service) that let you know when your information may have been shared on the black market.
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