By Game Star
It is time to warn parents on how their little ones are getting scammed and how they are paying all the money that scammers prise out of those trusting little minds. We are talking of online games for children that initially may seem harmless and even free. The gameplan opens up slowly, as the kids want to add material to their ‘operations’ and the game demands money.
Where do they pay from? Here is a modern day problem. Parents even leave their credit or debit cards with the children, and even if they are playing on their parents’ phones, generally credit and debit card details are saved for quick pay solutions. The rest is easy. Even when parents restrict the payments to a certain amount each day, amounts of even Rs 300 per day will add up to Rs 9,000 a month and Rs 1,08,000 per year. That would be just for one game and for one child. You will not know what hit you when the bill arrives.
Children are vulnerable, because they aren’t always looking out for potential warning signs of a scam. They will be busy playing, enjoying what they think – and sometimes their parents think the same as well – is a simple, joyful activity, in between boring homework.
The big problem today is lack of outdoor activity. That also decreased drastically during the Coronavirus pandemic, when they were forced to stay at home. Sports have come down to video games, online games. Busy parents would also be left alone for a while and it suits both. Only, it doesn’t.
More importantly, online games these days can be played with friends online, friends who rarely meet these days because of the pandemic and because most schools are shut. Children have little option but to play at home. That is where these fun and exciting video games come into play, and slowly the kids are drawn into purchases they just much make.
Among the games that quickly become addictions for children are desktop computer and gaming consoles such as Free Fire, PUBG and PS4. They can be played over phone too. Increased and cheap digital connectivity on India has added to this ease.
Let us see some real instances of fraud that have been committed through these games in India.
Among the shocking cases that have come to light was from Kanker in Chhattisgarh. Here a woman lost Rs 3.22 lakh, yes, that much, in just three months, because of the online ‘Free Fire’ game. She lodged an FIR alleging that she had been cheated. While investigating, the police found the woman’s 12-year-old bought ‘weapons’ used in the game to upgrade the game level. Think of money that had been swindled, just promising the kid a digital version of what was being termed a ‘weapon’.
The incident happened in the Pankhajur police station area. Reports say that Shubhra Pal, a teacher at PV-12 Middle School, saw 278 transactions on her bank account between March 8 and June 10. In the process Rs 3.22 lakh was withdrawn from her account. She was shocked and complained to the police on June 11.
What was more shocking was that through those many transactions, she did not get even one OTP on her phone, a security process that allows money to be pulled out of the account. The police consider this a new way of cheating people online.
The police learnt that the lakhs of rupees wasted in playing online games and upgrading gaming levels. Police said the woman’s son used to play a Free Fire on his mobile phone. The kid revealed all during questioning. Family members have said that this may have also been done under the influence of an elder person, but that is under investigation. Meanwhile, the money is gone.
Prosecution is a problem in this case, if not impossible, without the help of an agency such Interpol. The game Free Fire has been developed by a company called Sea Ltd, based in Singapore.
Another boy, just eight years old, deep in on online game, spent Rs 35,000 from his father’s savings account. He spent this over nine months. What did he do with that money? He cleared several stages of the online game, having added nothing to his own life-skills.
One day his father, who is a priest, noticed Rs 18,000 missing from his bank account. He feared some type of fraud and approached the Lucknow cyber police. The investigation done by the cyber police revealed that the eight-year-old had been using his father’s account. According to Abhay Mishra, nodal officer of Lucknow police cyber cell, said that investigations revealed that the father’s account was linked to an e-wallet. And it was from this e-wallet that the money started disappearing, ultimately showing up in the bank records.
Investigations also revealed that the recipient was in Mumbai. Mishra said: “We also found that his (the minor’s father) mobile number was used for the transactions, which is possible only when the victim makes the mistake of sharing OTP in the event of fraudulent calls/emails.”
However, the father said he had not received any fraudulent calls or emails. Flummoxed, the police then started probing the possibility that the account was being used by one of the family members. The police first questioned the man’s wife and then zeroed in on the son and his addictive game.
The minor told the officials that he had bought the game in December 2018 for Rs 80. In the initial levels, he had to pay Rs 500, but after clearing these levels, he was asked to buy virtual diamonds. The eight-year-old said that he had spent Rs 18,000 to buy the virtual diamonds, as per the game’s requirement. Over the period of one year, the minor had used a total of Rs 35,000 to play the online game.
Again, Free Fire, or Garena Free Fire, has been developed by Sea Ltd, a company that has origins in Singapore.
This is a game that has not only become superbly addictive and dangerous, but also extremely expensive, as a woman in Ernakulam found out at great cost.
A woman in Ernakulam lost Rs 2.93 lakh after her 14-year-old son used her mobile phone to play an online game, Garena Free Fire which was developed by Sea Ltd, a company that origins from Singapore became popular after the Central government banned PUBG.
The woman based in Aluva, Ernakulam thought that the money was siphoned off in a cyber fraud, but an investigation carried out by the police brought the real incident to light. During the investigation led by Ernakulam Rural district police chief K Karthick, which began following her complaint, it was found out that the boy spent the large sum in 225 transactions involving Rs 50 to Rs 5,000.
He used the whole money for purchasing virtual weapons, ammunition and player upgrades in the online game. “The mother came to know about suspicious transactions in her bank account. Following that, she approached the bank and took the transaction statement. She then learnt that the money was transferred to the Paytm wallet without her knowledge. Based on that, she filed a complaint with the rural police. The investigation carried out by the cyber team found that the money was transferred to the Paytm wallet for use in the Free Fire game. The boy admitted that he had used the money to buy virtual diamonds and thus upgrade the weapons and players in the game,” a police officer said.
The boy has spent the amount since the start of the lockdown in the state. “The mother was under the impression that the boy, who is studying in Class 9, was using the phone to attend online classes. Though he was addicted to games, she never thought that her son would use money for playing games,” said the officer.
In Kharar in Punjab, addiction to online games reached such a stage for a teenager that he spent Rs 16 lakh, the family had kept aside for his father’s treatment on the Chinese battle game – now banned – PUBG. The 17-year-old spent money from his parents’ account to buy in-game cosmetic items, artillery, passes for tournaments, and virtual ammunition.
As in the earlier case, the boy told his parents that he was using the smart phone for online studies during the lockdown. It was easy for the boy to carry out the many transactions as the bank details, card details etc were already saved on the phone. Most of the money was spent in a month.
The boy was aware that the bank would send messages back for every transaction and he kept deleting them from the phone. The parents said they came to know about the transactions from the bank statement. The boy was clever enough to even shuffle money between two accounts to avoid zeroing down the balance. The teenager also ended up emptying his mother’s provident fund and his own bank account.
That was his level of addiction.
In Mohali, Punjab
The addiction of such games is so much that the well-being of the family becomes secondary to the kids. In Mohali, a A 15-year old boy in Mohali, Punjab, stole money from his grandfather’s pension account to make purchases in PUBG mobile game by buying ‘Unknown Cash’ which means he purchased in-game items such as weapons skins, clothes, parachutes, crates etc. All these were needed to move up levels in the game. He was moving to a digital ‘Chicken Dinner’ (means victory in PUBG).
He got tips for the game from a senior in school and also learnt how to make discreet payments from the account. He made 30 payments in two months amounting to Rs 55,000.
He went to the extent of creating a PayTM account in his grandfather’s name and used his documents to clear the verification process. He then linked the account to the bank and started his purchases. When his parents went through the bank statement, they found anomalies. That was how they came to know.
How do the game makers and operators scam players?
Freemium: In this model some level of content is for free. However if you want to move into the game proper and also upgrade, money will be required for functions and access.
This is a model that lures people into the game, slowly making it so addictive that the players would do anything to move up, through subscriptions, expanded functionality, virtual currencies, weaponry, special abilities or other accessories in exchange for credit payments.
Credit cards are the most preferred form of payment and gamers have to attach a credit card to their gaming profile. Their card is automatically charged whenever users purchase new items or services.
How to not get caught in the trick?
Never give out your card number for any freemium games.
Most families share computers. More than one child may use the same tablet or laptop. Parents may use those same devices to log into various accounts online. When you share an internet connection or device with children, be aware that they may inadvertently expose your personal information to scammers. There can, then, be downloads of malicious software.
Malware will collect keystrokes and personal data the next time you log in to access your bank account, then be used to access and clean out your account later.
One of the most common scams involves V-Buck generators, which promise to pay users in-game currency in exchange for spending some time clicking on ads.
Phishing scams are common today. This is a gaming version of the well-known phishing scam in which a user is tricked into giving away his or her account details. Fraudsters will send an email to gamers telling them they need to confirm their password and login information. If gamers click on the email link, they are taken to a fake sign-in page that asks them to input their current password and username ultimately stealing the gamers account information.
Over to third-party sites
This is the other big scam within this scam. These sites look genuine and entice users to buy add-ons, starting from outfits, weapons, or new abilities to purchasing a method to generate online currency for use in the game. But the objective of this fake site is different. They trick users into completing transactions for purchases or rewards, but they will never be available, while the money has already been deducted from the account.
Gamers’ IP addresses in sight
Each user of a particular computer and internet connection has a unique IP address. This could lead to the scammer getting to know your physical location. With that they can easily zero in on your full name (generally gamers use fake and fancy names), address and much more. These bits of information will be added to other bits and pieces being gained from other methods and the scammers will have enough information to steal your financial and gaming account information.
Fake cheat codes and more.
During the course of the game gamers are often so desperate to succeed that they will try and find cheat codes. Scammers take full advantage of these for offering power-ups, and upgrades and soon a great deal of money changes hands. They’ll spam message boards saying they have cheat codes or uniform upgrades for sale. Sometimes they reach out directly to gamers on forums or during chats, promising them access to the latest items, pets, armour or weapons.
Having offered “free” online games for download, scammers can add international calls when the gamers download them. Such international calls can easily run up bills of lakhs of Rupees. This is difficult to grab while the transaction is on.
Then there is the other method, called, credential stuffing. Cyber criminals can gain access to your online gaming accounts, using password and username combinations that have already been stolen in data breaches and made available on the dark web. They then use automated software that enters these combinations into gaming sites such as Steam, Blizzard, or Humble Bumble. When hackers do gain access to gamers’ accounts, they can steal their credit card information and personally identifiable information. That is the end of the game.
Sale of Virtual Assets
Many online games use credits or other assets that have a nominal monetary value, players sometimes trade these, even though some sites, like eBay, have tried to stamp out the practice, mainly because so many of these assets are stolen.
It occurs when a teen or younger child uses a computing device to threaten, humiliate, or otherwise harass a peer. It can take place in online multi-player gaming chats