Online gaming isn’t just for kids and teens anymore. The global gaming market has evolved beyond traditional consoles and has become more interactive and virtual, with more than 3.1 billion people worldwide taking part in the gaming experience.
According to forecasts, the gaming industry was expected to reach $175.8 billion in 2021 with growth predictions exceeding $314.4 billion by 2026. US gamers between ages 18-34 make up 38% of the market and women over 65 are more likely to be gamers than men of the same age, according to Venture Beat and the Entertainment Software Association.
With the evolution of the gaming experience, it is important to know the top threats in this environment and the tactics used by scammers to exploit you. Here are the five major risks threatening everyone involved in online gaming, and what you can do to stay safe.
Online Gaming Threats
The same tactics scammers use to trick people out of their credit card numbers, bank passwords and other account logins are also popular with gaming thieves. In the gaming environment, cybercriminals may build something that looks like a popular online game website. Then, they will urge gamers to change their password or validate their account. Hackers will threaten to block the gamer’s account unless they comply. The goal is to take over the account and resell it on the black market.
Solution: Never click a link in an email or text message. Open your web browser, type in the game website yourself. Log in to your account and perform any checks or confirmations there.
Almost every online game includes some form of voice or text-based chat feature. However, communicating with unknown persons can leave you open to inappropriate behavior, online harassment or even something more nefarious like sexual exploitation.
Solution: Immediately block any offender; don’t play or chat with them, and report their username to the game abuse team. Never reveal your real identity or personal details to your gaming partners. If your kids are playing, teach them to discuss such incidents with you promptly and make sure they are well aware that the “stranger-danger” principle is highly applicable in online games as well as in the real world.
3. Cheats and Frauds
Depending on the rules and the type of game, multiple ways to cheat may exist — some considered legitimate, some not. You may encounter a person that offers you unlimited downloads, character lives or an in-game advantage, often for a discounted price – but this is a common scam to look out for.
Solution: Don’t accept suspicious offers from strangers. If an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
4. Character and Inventory Theft
Criminals are likely to target well-developed game characters, paid game accounts or associated credit-card data. Common tactics include phishing, password-stealing malware and in-game fraud.
Solution: Set up multi-factor authentication for the account, create a passphrase for your in-game account in addition to your primary email address. Activate automatic updates on your devices as well as your browsers. Lastly, be aware of phishing attempts to steal your credentials.
5. Hacked Devices
Hackers target gamers with fake game updates or utilities claiming to customize your game or help speed up your game progress. Malicious applications are spread through phishing attempts, in-game communications or as attachments on game forums.
Solution: Activate automatic updates on your devices and browsers. The most up to date versions will contain patches that often address the most recent security threats. And as always, never click on unknown links or attachments to protect yourself from scammers.
If you happen to click on a phishing email, share personal/financial information or are being harassed online, visit FightCybercrime.org to learn what to do next.