— Taking a break from the explosive battle royale action of “Fortnite” might be the best thing to do in the coming weeks. When the game goes on vacation, so too does the risk that teens could become the victim of V-bucks scams.
While playing the game, players are asked to donate V-bucks, the game’s in-game currency, to the “Save the World” campaign for charity. After that, players can appear to be successful, but in reality, they have given away their V-bucks. That’s the news that first broke last week.
How do these scams and schemes work? Credit card companies, banks and online retailers are starting to offer one-time code activation after placing an order on a website. If the buyer is worried that they might accidentally access a V-bucks account that has been hacked or stolen, they can pay their bill by entering the code on the order confirmation page.
V-bucks are actually very valuable. Each purchase rewards a player with 6,200 V-bucks. As an example, if a player spends $10 on a hyper speed T-shirt from a store like Aeropostale, $6 of the purchase price is the T-shirt. The 6,200 V-bucks is deposited into that player’s secure account. It’s then used to purchase more items, like shirts, shoes, tank tops and of course a diverse selection of outfits and weapons to allow players to customize their in-game characters.
With more than 100 million players worldwide, V-bucks are among the most valuable currencies that players can obtain in the game. Unfortunately, the game’s developers and publishers are not always knowledgeable about how to adequately protect players. In 2015, a security researcher discovered a vulnerability in “Fortnite” that allowed players to sign in and download V-bucks. In the millions of dollars that could have been stolen, it was a minor story in the grand scheme of Fortnite. However, it did warrant an important point: We have no way of tracking criminals once they take your V-bucks.
Even more worrisome than this discovery is that, in 2010, the company behind the website they were using attempted to sell account information to credit card companies. The site’s administrator said they had received complaints about fraudulent charges and wanted to set up a control center that would show them at a glance when customers used their credit cards and which games they had played. That control center is no longer live. According to federal prosecutors, the site had anywhere from 3,000 to 7,000 accounts with credit card information on it and the bank responsible for issuing the debit cards was notified and sent to shut down the accounts.
Are cyber-criminals out to rip off players of the game? Not a chance. In this case, criminals actually meant to steal money and credit card information. Police say their plan fell apart when their goal to generate big commissions that would facilitate trips abroad suddenly went down.
What players can do:
Protect your data. There are many forms of malware that can attack your computer, but if you have downloaded any file or other app, the app store has your permission to hold personal data. Unfortunately, criminals use apps to do illegal activities and want your name, address, payment information and personal information to be accessible.
Play securely. “Fortnite” encourages players to log in every day and reports players to authorities if they log in five times in a day and have information related to the person’s security. Players can do the same if they find that their information is being used fraudulently.
Wait for your money. Some players have found that there is value in waiting to be paid for their purchases. If they get a notification from the time when they had a transaction, their accounts were linked to that person’s phone number or their email address, and they will receive a notification when that person’s V-bucks was received. This way, they can call the number they were called on to verify whether the money was actually paid for. As with Fortnite’s drop zones, if a player is unable to reach the person who claimed to have received their payment, the game will call them.
Ed McNally is the company’s senior account manager. He works closely with industry, government and academic institutions and is passionate about helping people better understand all that Fortnite has to offer.