is a hugely popular game with a thriving business model based on microtransactions. According to a recent report, that’s made it an ideal place of business for folks to launder money.
Cyber intelligence firm SixGill (via Variety) recently released a report called “Carding and the Digital Gaming Industry,” in which the firm explains how Epic Games’ epic hit, , has become the new favorite stomping grounds of darknet criminals.
While the tactic of “carding” isn’t new, it’s actually a pretty smart exploitation of in-game markets. As the report outlines, the idea is that a person can use a stolen credit card, or several, to load up a account with V-bucks (in-game currency you purchase with real-world money) or all kinds of cosmetic items on sale within the game. Creating a account requires little more than an email address and the game is free-to-play, so a crook can get through this process in about five minutes.
Once they’ve got a fully stocked account, the next step is to sell the account online, either through message boards or, more commonly, directly through sites like eBay. The hook is that they are frequently selling the accounts for far less than what they are worth. That makes selling the account a simple process and, since the money that went on the account was stolen in the first place, it’s all a profit for the cyber-crook. In other words, they may sell an account for $100 even though it has $200 worth of real-world currency on it, and maybe some rare cosmetic items to sweeten the pot.
The report notes that accounts are selling constantly online, some going for thousands of dollars. When someone buys an account, the person doing the selling simply sends them the email address tied to the account and, boom, it’s a done deal.
Obviously, the buying and selling of accounts is against Epic’s end user license agreement, but they need to catch someone before they can be held accountable. That’s easier said than done. Even if an account is loaded with funds and then the IP address for the person playing the account suddenly shifts to a different country, has an audience of more than 125 million players. Epic might be able to develop a program that sifts through accounts looking for certain red flags but, otherwise, there’s practically no way to police this kind of activity.
And it’s that very popularity that has made so appealing to folks looking to pull off this type of crime. You could do this same thing in an online game like or , but the size of the audience means it would be harder to catch folks in the act. The game’s seasonal items are also pegged as being an appeal, as rare items tied to an account filled with stolen cash make its resale value go up.