When you think about cybercrime, you're probably thinking about hackers stealing your credit card information, or using a fake email to trick you into sharing your personal and financial information with them. Those are a couple of ways cybercriminals steal your ID and money, but it's not the only way.
Some cybercriminals use games to steal your money, literally. If you play games online, or a family member does, you need to know how cybercriminals trick you, and how you can stop them.
There are seven gaming scams you should be on the lookout for. It starts with a familiar deception: phishing.
If you receive a message from another online gamer, even someone you think you know, and they ask you to click on a link, don't do it. That link will take you to a malicious site that may look legitimate. There, you're asked to input your personal information. Your online friend may have tempted you with a promise to share a gaming guide, or something else.
How to protect yourself: Always check the URL you're on, to make sure you weren't directed to another site. Then, sign up for your gaming platform's two-step authentication. That's when you put in another code, in addition to your password, to get in. On the gaming platform Steam, for instance, it's called Steam Guard.
2. Phony sites with answers
If you play online games, you've been tempted to find shortcuts or solutions to get to the next level. Sometimes, cheating a little bit is part of the fun, and there's no harm in that.
Cybercriminals are onto you. If you see a YouTube video or a website that promises to provide shortcuts for a game, just beware if they're asking you to download browser extensions or to click on links. They could take over your computer and demand ransom. (Read about 3 sure steps to beat ransomware here.)
How to protect yourself: Don't click on links unless you requested a person or company you trust to send it to you. Plus, make sure you have a powerful Internet security suite that's up to date.
3. Paid for gifts
If another gamer says they want to buy an item from you, like an extra game life, make sure you sell it to them through the gaming site, not your personal online payment system, like PayPal.
It's easy for a cybercriminal to buy something from you, then contact PayPal to freeze the transaction and get their money back. If you don't know what they're doing, you're out of luck. They bought your item for free.
How to protect yourself: Sell stuff through the gaming site, not your online payment system.
4. Borrowed gifts
You might receive a message from someone claiming to be your friend, who wants to borrow an item from you.
How to protect yourself: If someone claims to know you, ask them to have a video chat on a site like Skype.
5. Game site employee
Cybercriminals know that they'll get your attention if they say they're an employee of a gaming site like Steam. They may accuse you of fraud or something else, then demand payment in the form of game items.
How to protect yourself: If an employee contacts you, they will never demand payment in the form of game items. Call their bluff, or contact the gaming site's customer support team.
6. Email confirmation
Cybercriminals who pose as the good guy may ask you to email them your account confirmation link.
How to protect yourself: Don't send anyone your account information. If Steam or another gaming platform needs your account information, they already have it.
7. Rushing you
If someone contacts you on a gaming site, perhaps offering to sell you an item, and they're trying to rush you to make a decision, it's probably a scam.
How to protect yourself: If you're being rushed to buy something, slow the seller down. Look over what you're being offered before making any decision.