A new money laundering scheme has been uncovered within the gaming industry. This time though, it doesn't involve a specific investor or corporation, but rather the abuse of the in-game currency of Fortnite.
Uncovered by The Independent, cybercriminals have been using Fortnite to shift money stolen from credit cards off of the dark web.
The stolen cards are used to buy V-bucks, the virtual currency in Fortnite. Typically, V-bucks are purchased to buy in-game outfits, weapons, emotes and other items in-game. For Fortnite and Epic Games, V-bucks have been a massive revenue stream, with over $3 billion net profit for Epic Games in 2018.
For cybercriminals, V-bucks are purchased off of the stolen cards and then re-sold for a net profit off of the dark web at a discount rate. This allows the stolen money to be "cleaned," in other words, made more legitimate through a standard transaction. Most of these transactions are done through cryptocurrencies as well, to make further money transactions untraceable.
Cyber security firm Sixgill spearheaded the investigation into the scale of the money laundering operations with The Independent, scouring the open and dark web for potential sellers connected to the scheme. Several operations have already been uncovered, with sellers across the globe in five different languages, including Chinese, Spanish and English
“Criminals are executing carding fraud and getting money in and out of the Fortnite system with relative impunity,” stated Benjamin Preminger, senior intelligence analyst at Sixgill. "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.”
This is not the first time Fortnite has been implicated in an online scam. The Independent also reports of other research firms, such as Zerofox, finding over 53,000 different online scams relating to Fortnite within the timeframe of a month. Most of the criminal activity has grown as the popularity of Fortnite has risen. It is estimated that an 86% of the scams were shared via social media, making them susceptible to vulnerable consumers.
Epic Games has thus far not responded to the security breaches or laundering schemes found on Fortnite, a point of contention made by Sixgill.
“Epic Games doesn’t seem to clamp down in any serious way on criminal activity surrounding Fortnite, money laundering or otherwise,” Mr Preminger said.“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.”
Fortnite is far from the first or only game to have this situation going on. Last year, Naked Security reported that many free-to-play games on mobile devices were actually being targeted and used in a similar fashion with fraudulent credit card purchases of virtual currency to be resold on third-party markets at a reduced price.
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