With low costing internet plans and affordable smartphones, there are more than 1 billion people in India, who stream games over the internet every month. This significant growth in numbers along with the integration of mobile apps, social networks, and a range of gaming platforms, are attracting cybercriminals. Gaming platforms are becoming too attractive to fraudsters as they keep multiple payment credentials on file, and lack the relevant regulatory requirements, like KYC (Know Your Customer) checks.

How Lockdown shaped the Gaming Scenario?

In March 2020, India went into complete lockdown following the COVID-19 pandemic. Eventually, restaurants, movie theatres, shopping malls closed their doors. With the pandemic’s impact varying between regions, people started to spend time online and shifted their interests to purchase online. Online gaming was seen to be growing faster than the entertainment market. During lockdown, the online gaming sector was further accelerated by the release of several new games, which caused mobile and PC gaming to rocket with billions of youngsters spending hours on the online world. Gaming markets experienced a demand for games featuring more social elements like Animal Crossing, New Horizons, and Call of Duty: Warzone which experienced much success as it granted free-to-play access and cross-platform social functionality.

With an increasing playing time of popular titles, the release of new games, and the introduction of first-time players, has created rapid onboarding. Most operators have experienced significant increases in the volume of signups, which has led to the relaxation of onboarding, screening, procurement, and payments controls. The rapid growth of gamers has provided a perfect ground for payment fraud, with fraudsters taking advantage of the situation while stealing sensitive personal and payment data.

How do fraudsters lay the trap for gamers?

Fraudsters target only those games with profitable opportunities such as video games that are increasingly monetized with in-game purchasing options or ‘microtransactions’ and those containing stealable assets. One of the key factors is that in-game items sometimes have a real-life value outside the game. In a move to combat money laundering, few of the gaming communities, have banned the trade of containers keys that are used to obtain in-game items. This is because the key purchases traded or sold on the marketplace are believed to be fraud-sourced.

In addition to in-game items, fraudsters are also focusing on global F2P (Free-to-Play) games like Fortnite and League of Legends. Fortnite has become a site for hackers racking up fraudulent charges through phishing links often to the tune of thousands of rupees. Many League of Legends players fell prey to hackers via phishing schemes, potentially opening their accounts to be taken over.

How can you save yourself from fraud while playing games online?

1. Avoid clicking on suspicious links while playing online games.

2. In case of purchasing any in-game items, make sure to do the transaction through a digital escrow system like Vouch, where you can easily get a refund in case of any fraud.

3. Make sure to verify the trader's details from a gaming expert (community) before buying/selling in-game items. 

4. Avoid clicking on rewarding programs offered by external ads while playing any online games.

What is digital escrow?

Digital Escrow is the use of a third party account, during a transaction, which holds the money deposited by the person who is purchasing any product/service until the seller fulfills the terms of the agreement. The transacting parties are supervised by the escrow company.

How does Digital Escrow save you from online frauds in India? 

Vouch’s Digital Escrow service is a transparent way for buyers and sellers to build trust and secure a clean transfer of product and payment. Buyers can feel assured that they will be fairly compensated in a timely manner, and buyers will feel confident that their order will be delivered as expected and on schedule. If you ever come across a fraudster asking for OTP, asking you to scan a QR code, or asking you to click on phishing links, you can simply say no and ask him/her to proceed with the transaction through Vouch. 

Vouch Digital Escrow uses a non-interest-bearing escrow account for all transactions in India and keeps you updated and informed at every step of the transaction process till the end. Vouch’s professionals are always available to assist you with all queries that you may have during the entire transaction process. There is no scope for deceit or fraud since the payments, shipping, delivery, and execution are carried out under the honest and watchful eyes of the Vouch’s professionals. With Vouch, any business transaction becomes transparent, uncomplicated, and hassle-free.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- This is Fraud Story #35. Check back here for more fraud chronicles and scams that you can protect yourself from.

Safety is not just about protecting your credit or debit card number. It's about having control of your money till you've delivered the product or service you contracted to! 

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Note: This is a good-faith initiative to educate the world about how to avoid frauds like these. Do you have a fraud that you would like to report? Please write to us at letstalk@iamvouched.com