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SYFY WIRE Fortnite

Fortnite is so big, criminals are now using it to launder stolen money

By Benjamin Bullard
Fortnite via official Epic Games website 2019

Fortnite’s in-game currency system of V-Bucks has reportedly become a haven for money-laundering criminals, who’ve recognized its potential as a platform where stolen credit cards can be used to purchase V-Bucks, and then resell them at a discount to unsuspecting gamers via the dark web.

The Independent revealed the results of its investigation into the matter, conducted in partnership with cyber security firm Sixgill, earlier this week. The game’s massive global popularity, as well as the flexibility and ease of its microtransactions across the world, have proven enticing to credit card thieves looking for a way to convert the cards’ spending power into real cash.

“Criminals are executing carding fraud and getting money in and out of the Fortnite system with relative impunity,” Sixgill senior intelligence analyst told The Independent.

“Threat actors [a malicious person or entity] are scoffing at Epic Games’ weak security measures, saying that the company doesn’t seem to care about players defrauding the system and purchasing discounted V-bucks… This directly touches on the ability of threat actors to launder money through the game.”

Epic Games acknowledged and responded to the report, telling The Hollywood Reporter the company “takes these issues seriously, as chargebacks and fraud put our players and our business at risk.” Epic advised Fortnite players “to protect their accounts by turning on two-factor authentication, not re-using passwords and using strong passwords, and not sharing account information with others.”

While those measures can certainly diminish some opportunities for theft, they can’t stifle an unsuspecting player’s compulsion to jump at the chance to scoop up dirt-cheap V-Bucks they happen to spy while surfing the dark web. The Independent report noted examples of suspected dark web come-ons, including one seller — who accepted Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash as payment — who claimed to be selling at a discount because his in-game avatar is “f**king rich as f**k,” and just wants “to give back to the deep web at a massive discounted rate.”

Despite being totally free to download and play, Fortnite is among the world’s most profitable entertainment products in terms of money earned over time. Epic earned a reported $2.4 billion from the game’s massive player base last year, primarily through character-customizing microtransactions and other cosmetic modifications that don’t affect the outcome of a battle.