Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you
Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you

Gamers the new target of scammers worldwide

It’s not just you or the parentals being targeted by cybercriminals, as scammers focus on an industry worth billions: gamers.

Scammers may well be increasing their attacks on people working from home, not to mention cryptocurrency scams and pretending to be the ATO, but they’re not the only ones in the crosshairs.

Lately, gamers are a big push for criminals, and the reason is simple: money.

Gaming is worth big amounts of the stuff, and cybercriminals tend to be motivated by money and nefarious approaches that work, with security company Sophos chiming in recently to warn PC gamers about the risks they may end up facing.

The category is estimated to be worth over $3.4 billion, making it an obvious target for criminals keen to cash in on the unsuspecting. But while gamers may think they’re savvy enough to avoid being caught out, a little bit of education and possibly the addition of software may just prevent a digital calamity from occurring.

According to Sophos’ Global Solution Engineer, Aaron Bugal, the risk may come from an offering of something free for nothing, similar to how other scams work.

In the Woolworths scams, there’s a promise of a free product with you only paying for the shipping details, before having the scammer run off with those credit card details and use them for something else. In the video game equivalent, there’s not much difference, it seems.

“Phishing messages, fake versions of games, as well as directing players to third-party websites are popular methods cybercriminals use to target gamers,” said Bugal.

“Considering how engaged, active and competitive gamers are, the promise of in-game assets, competitive advantages, and free hardware is highly tempting to an unsuspecting victim.”

Bugal noted that Epic’s Fortnite game was one such example, with scammers promising free in-game currency using fake apps, but instead using it to snare details on devices.

It’s a similar problem if a scammer promises the idea of free hardware to improve PC gaming experiences, which in turn is no different from the idea of a prize simply for filling out a form. On the internet much like in life, it’s rare that someone really, genuinely wants to give you something for free, and you could be falling for a trap.

A PS5 controller in front of a PS4 controller

However this trap isn’t one just focused on PC gamers, with the risks extending beyond the desktop world, and over to console gamers, as well.

“Cybercriminals don’t discriminate – they are opportunists. Many people turned to games as a form of escapism from the reality of the pandemic and, while emotions were heightened, it creates the perfect situation for cybercriminals to take advantage of,” said Bugal, noting the PlayStation 5 shortage as a recent problem scammers were looking at.

As we noted in our PlayStation 5 review earlier in the year, finding a PS5 is not an easy occurrence due to hardware shortages brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly one year on from the release of the PlayStation 5 and that’s still a problem, and one scammers are all too happy to take advantage of, it seems.

“Scammers will take advantage of this hype and bait desperate gamers with the promise of a new PS5 by entering a free competition – all that needs to be provided is an email address (for now),” he said.

“Long story short, the victim is left without a PS5 and stolen credit card details.”

What can gamers do to stay on guard?

Crazy as it seems, scams are here to stay because scammers can make money from them, which means we need to do more to stay on guard.

That might come from having a bit of software in your life to stop someone from breaking in or prevent you from clicking on a dodgy link, but education is also one of the best defences that we have.

However most of what can help prevent scammers from taking advantage of a gamer’s life is what everyone can do, such as turning on multi-factor authentication to ensure changes have to be registered by extra devices, using strong passwords once per account so you’re not reusing the same across your life, and being wary of who you add to your digital account: if you don’t know the person and/or their promising something, it may be a trick to get you to hand over details.

“Phishing scams are a popular method of luring users. Never click on a link that you’re unsure about and ignore any messages that are unexpected,” Bugal told Pickr. “Deny any requests that ask for login, password or any other personal information and never share your account login details with anyone.”

Ultimately, take care of your online life much like you would in real life, not trusting strangers with details simply because they’re offering you something for nothing.

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