Scamwatch: online gaming fraud

Jess Bown
disguised computer hacker
disguised computer hacker

Stay one step ahead of the fraudsters with our series of articles giving you the lowdown on the scams they use to trick people out of their hard-earned cash - and how to avoid being taken in by them.

This week, the online gaming tricks fraudsters use to try to con you out of your hard-earned cash.

How does it work?
Millions of people use online gaming sites that allow them to connect with and play against other gaming enthusiasts. Not all those who use these sites are simply looking for fun, though.

From dodgy downloads that infiltrate your computer with malware to mobile phone games that allow those behind them to make costly international calls from your phone, fraudsters use a raft of scams to trick gamers.

The latest scam involves the trading of credits or other assets gamers can use and earn on sites, with crooks offering non-existent credits and virtual assets for sale.

The company behind the Steam gaming platform - Valve - has even changed its terms to state that gamers caught out by such tricks will not be reimbursed.

"We sympathise with people who fall victim to scams, but we provide enough information on our website and within our trading system to help users make good trading decisions," it said. "All trade scams can be avoided."

How can I avoid being caught out?
One of the most common online gaming scams involves the offer of free downloads that allow people to get their hands on the latest games for free.

In many cases, these downloads are simply a way for fraudsters to attack your computer with malware that can then be used to log your keystrokes, for example.

It is therefore vital to have a good antivirus programme in place if you plan to game online.

Other top tips include avoiding mobile games that are not from a trusted source and looking out for "quick switching" (swapping an item for one that looks similar but has a lower value) and too-good-to-be-true offers when trading credits or digital assets online.

I've been defrauded. What should I do?
If you think your computer may have been affected by malware due to a dodgy game download, it makes sense to check your computer using an online virus scanner, such as the Microsoft Safety Scanner.

You should then change any passwords and login details that may have been made available to the hackers.

It is also a good idea to report any suspected online gaming fraud to Action Fraud (0300 123 2040), as well as the gaming site or platform concerned.

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