There are two rules that are almost absolute truths of the internet: if something succeeds, someone will create a porn movie about and some criminal group will invent some kind of fraud or scam using that element. And the game Fortnite is not the first exception to this rule. According to an extensive survey by The Independent along with security firm Sixgill, criminals have used the game as a way to launder money
The scheme would work as follows: These groups use stolen credit cards to buy V-bucks (the special game currency that can be used to buy weapons, clothes, and other items for the characters) and resell those coins on social networks for a figure below what is charged by the Epic Games store, thus turning stolen credit into “clean” money. In addition to social networks (which run relatively low amounts of money), scammers also use the dark web for operations of the type, but the operations there are much larger, with the possibility of using the game to launder money from organized crime.
According to Benjamin Preminger, Sixgill intelligence analyst, the fact that Epic does not seem to care about non-company agents selling V-bucks on the outside is what makes the system perfect for money laundering of criminals, and allows them to operate with impunity within the game.
Turning to potential buyers of the currency, Sixgill agents were able to identify that the currency’s sales operations occurred in almost every country in the world, and it was possible to find operators serving the Chinese, Russian, Spanish, Arabic, and English .
It’s unclear exactly how much the criminals have managed to wash using this technique, but Sixgill’s data shows that there is a direct correlation between the increase in mentions of the game on the dark web and the increase in revenue generated by Fortnite in recent months. But since the sellers there only accept payments in bitcoin and bitcoin cash, it is virtually impossible to trace who the people behind the scheme are.
Already another survey, conducted by security company Zerofox, found 53,000 instances of fraud using the game between September and October 2018 and estimates that 86% of these frauds were shared through social networks such as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
Companies blame Epic for this abundance of cases, as the company does not seem to have the slightest concern that its game is being used for illegal activities. They say that even if it is not possible to end these types of fraud, security measures can be used to reduce the number of cases, such as notifying local security authorities about players buying large quantities of coins or which have a suspect number of coins accumulated, but currently none of these actions is taken by the company.
So far, Epic Games has yet to comment on the allegations.