As the video gaming world continues to innovate, so too do the criminals using it for their own gain. Fortnite's meteoric rise in popularity has made it a prime target for money launderers, and no-one buying add-ons or accounts from third party sellers is safe.
According to Variety, this is how the scam works: a seller who is gaming the system will create a new account through Epic Games, the game's network. The thief then uses an illegally obtained credit card to buy as many upgrades for that account as possible, including limited edition weapons and sought-after skins, before selling the account on a third party platform like eBay. The listing is often in the range of $25, while the account may have upwards of $100 in virtual currency and upgrades attached to it. Once the account's credentials are sold to an unwitting buyer, the criminals are free to take their $25-per-account in profit via a service like PayPal, and they can leave the stolen credit card behind.
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Fortnite accounts are big business on sites like eBay, with the top 50 game-related listings reportedly fetching about $250,000 in the last two months alone. The factors that have made the game a prime target for illegal transactions are varied, but the quick turnover in limited-edition items, combined with the coincidental rise in popularity of cryptocurrency, are among them. Add to that some players' desire to be competitive at all costs and the situation is ripe for the picking by cyber-criminals.
Epic Games, which released Fortnite in 2017, has denounced the practice of buying or selling accounts and is reportedly monitoring the situation carefully. The game boasts upwards of 125 million players in under a year of its existence, while pulling in hundreds of millions of dollars per month. As Epic Games continues to test its systems for further vulnerabilities to criminal transactions, players have been encouraged to play with a reasonable degree of caution and to avoid buying accounts or other in-game materials from third party sellers, which is against the game's end-user license and can result in a player's account being suspended.
Fortnite, which just released its Creative Mode in December, is available across platforms, including Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Windows, Nintendo Switch, macOS, iOS and Android devices.