How to stay safe from video game pay-to-play scams?

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The mobile game industry is projected to generate $89.25 billion in 2023, worldwide. The growing user base has led to a spike in industry revenue. But at the same time, it is also the reason behind innovative scam games which are becoming widespread by the day. The trend is witnessed primarily in mobile games.

While mobile game scams have existed for years, the boom is particularly noticeable post-pandemic. Scammers found it easier to get victims during these volatile times and as a result, such scams grew exponentially.

What Are These Games?

These mobile game scams usually happen in simple casual games. They have very simple game mechanics that make it easy for anyone to pick the game up and play.

These games promise that players can earn money by playing the game. Usually, there will be an in-game account for real-world money. When the player completes in-game milestones, the game credits a certain amount of money into this account. The amount in the account increases, as the player completes more milestones.

Players, however, can’t transfer the in-game currency to their bank account instantly. Instead, they must wait for the amount in the in-game account to hit a threshold amount set by the developers. For instance, if the developers have set the threshold amount as $200, players can only transfer the in-game money to their bank account after they hit $200.

The promise looks enticing. It is no wonder that these games can easily garner millions of users worldwide. After all, who would turn down the opportunity to play a game and make thousands of dollars in the process?

How ‘They’ Make Money

Most players don’t find the threshold amount a hindrance at all. Because in the initial stages, the developers reward them with big amounts in such pay-to-play scam games. So, players believe they can hit the threshold amount very soon. So, they play more.

But the belief is not true.

As the players get closer to the threshold amount, they stop earning money. Even if they do continue to earn, the amount is so low compared to what it was at the beginning, making it impossible for them to ever reach the target in a reasonable time.
Many players quit in frustration at this point. Some keep trying in vain. In a few games, players can reach the target. But they won’t be able to cash out the money at all. In short, the players never make any money as promised.

However, the developers earn significantly during gameplay as the players will have to watch a lot of ads to keep earning boosts and rewards to keep up with the game challenges. The developers behind these games are simply monetizing their users’ attention. The promise of payment is just a method to lure players.

There are also significant chances of fraud in such games. The following are a few common ways in which players fall victim to such scams while playing these games:

Account takeover fraud

The game account has all the vital information related to the player. The personal information, details about their earnings, and history of their game performance are stored here. As a result, the account is occasionally the preferred target of scammers. Taking over an established account with significant earnings, skins, reward points and more saves thousands of hours of effort in building from scratch. The fraudsters even use the card details saved in the account to purchase more digital assets. They usually change the account password and lock the real owner out of it. Such fraud also impacts the game developers’ business as genuine users leave the platform entirely. Often the scammers would sell the acquired accounts to other enthusiasts of the game for profit.

Fake Accounts

In this scam, fraudsters create bogus accounts to imitate real players. They use these accounts to manipulate game outcomes, deceive other players, or fraudulently acquire in-game items or currency. These accounts are created using bots and emulators to flood online gaming tournaments and increase their chances of winning. As a result, genuine players lose confidence and eventually quit the game platform in the long run, leading to significant losses for the game developer.

Botting

This involves using automated programs or ‘bots’ to play games. These bots can perform tasks, collect rewards, or engage in gameplay without human intervention, giving unfair advantages and disrupting the game’s balance. The fraudsters use the bots to level up rapidly compared to other players as they can accumulate in-game items much quicker. This disrupts the user experience for genuine players.

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Bonus Abuse

Bonus abuse occurs when scammers exploit promotional offers in games. They may create multiple accounts or use other deceptive means to repeatedly claim bonuses meant for new or loyal players, thereby draining resources intended for genuine player engagement. A common bonus abuse is signing up with different accounts to claim the joining bonus repeatedly. Eventually, genuine players cease to receive lucrative bonuses because the developers stopped giving them out to prevent such scams.

Chargeback Fraud

This scam involves making in-game purchases and then requesting a chargeback from the payment provider, falsely claiming that the purchase was unauthorized or fraudulent. It results in financial losses for the game developers.

Unauthorized Transaction

Here, scammers gain access to a player’s account and make unauthorized purchases using stored payment methods. This can occur through hacking, phishing, or other means of account compromise.

Self-Exclusion Fraud

In this method, players who have self-excluded (voluntarily banned themselves from a game for responsible gaming reasons) attempt to bypass restrictions and continue playing or making transactions. This is often done by creating new accounts or using someone else’s account.

How to Avoid Scam Games Like These?

Game scams begin very subtly and can be tricky to decipher. By the time you fathom its impact, the damages are done. However, there are several ways in which you can stay protected against pay-to-play game scams. The following are guidelines you can follow to reduce the likelihood of falling for scam games like these.

  • If it is too good to be true, then it probably is false. Bonus points, reward systems, the amount of the reward, frequency of rewards- all these factors should be considered. If they all seem to lucrative than any other game platform and it is a relatively unknown game developer or platform, it is likely to be a scam.
  • Avoid opening phishing emails and messages which steal the login information of the users.
  • Activate the 2-step or multi-step verification of the account to prevent any kind of scamming or stealing of the account.
  • Opt for local security solutions to block and detect malicious software and also trigger alert messages as required.
  • Avoid using the game app on a public or shared device. If you do, ensure you are logging out from the account before leaving the device.
  • Always download the game from the official website or the authorized location.
  • Report the game platform in case you witness any suspicious activities about the game.
  • The promise that most of these games are making is unrealistic. There is no way the developers behind these games can pay the huge amounts they are promising.
  • Check if the games you download are from reputed game developers. Reputed game developers who promise real-life rewards will deliver on their promises. Their promises will also be realistic compared to those given by scam developers.
  • Always look at the negative reviews. Most of the people who fell for these scam games did so after they saw the positive reviews of these games.

Genuine Money-Making Apps and Games

All this does not mean there aren’t legitimate apps and games that give out money to users.

But even these apps and games won’t give people huge rewards. Players can’t expect to make thousands of dollars every month from these. And even to make a small sum, they will have to invest a lot of time.

For most people, the time investment would neither be worth it nor even possible. However, if someone is looking to make small amounts on the side, these games and apps may be of help.

Conclusion

Juego Studios is one of the top game development companies which have earned a reputation for over a decade. Our experts create high-quality games that spans various genres and ensure absolute transparency from conceptualizing to post-launch support and platform integration.

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