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Protect Kids From Online Video Gaming Fraud This Holiday Season

kids playing video game

If online video gaming platforms will make an appearance in your home any time this holiday season, then make sure your kids’ new favorite pastime doesn’t take the happy out of your holidays.

When they are parked in front of a TV, tablet or smartphone, there is a good chance they are playing video games. Global gaming revenue is expected to reach over $184 billion in 2023 and an estimated 3.38 billion people around the world are playing video games on consoles, PCs and mobile devices. It’s nearly certain your kids are playing. The Entertainment Software Association® estimates that 76% of children (under the age of 18) play video games.

Those numbers, combined with trends in video gaming fraud, make gaming a family concern. Web application attacks against online gaming increased by 167% between 2021 and 2022. During the same period, attacks utilizing malicious software on video games saw a 13% increase.

Parents and guardians need to understand the risks gaming poses to kids and learn practical actions you can take to protect your family.

The Top Three Gaming Fraud Risks

While still evolving, the dangers your family faces in the world of gaming follow trends and patterns seen for years in the personal financial services and information security (infosec) industries. Three common risks to gamers, young and old, are:

  1. Account Takeover
  2. Payment Card Fraud
  3. Denial of Service and Local Cyber Attacks

Here is what’s involved, and how parents can minimize the threats posed by each.

Account Takeover

Account takeover (ATO) is the term used when someone gains illicit access to an existing account. Hackers gain access in a number of ways, from guessing an easy password to obtaining credentials for sale on the dark web.

In the context of video games, an ATO can be about getting access to the accounts of more experienced players to gain access to earned or purchased assets. The accounts and their credentials are then often sold to less experienced gamers, unaware what they are purchasing was stolen from another player.

Because various forms of ATO fraud have been plaguing financial services and consumers for years, here are some best practices to protect against the risks to your family’s gaming accounts.

  • Choose a complex password for your accounts using letters, numbers and symbols. Passphrases using spaces when allowed are even better.
  • Ensure your password is unique to each account. Do not reuse the same password across different accounts.
  • Change your password every 30-90 days and don’t recycle passwords. A password manager can assist with securely storing and remembering your passwords.
  • When available, enable and use two-factor authentication on your accounts. This will often be triggered if someone attempts to access your account from an unfamiliar device/console or from a different region.
  • If your account is compromised and you notice suspicious activity, you should immediately notify:
    • Your bank whose payment card may be attached to that account so they can monitor for suspicious charges or cancel the card.
    • The gaming platform so that they can shut down the account or monitor for illicit activity.
    • The game manufacturer if it has a customer helpline and its own community standards support.

Payment Card Fraud

While often tied to ATO, payment card fraud in gaming is its own distinct risk that can arise in any number of ways. Within your gaming service, you likely have your payment card on file to be charged for anything needed to play and succeed in the game. If you or your child’s account is compromised and you are the victim of ATO, you could also become the victim of payment card fraud if your payment card information is stored on the account.

Even more, there are risks posed by purchases on third-party marketplaces that allow players to exchange content like weapons, cars, skins/paintjobs or perks. Beware of websites offering kids game cheats and codes because they could be payment card number harvesting scams.

Kids can also be targeted by social engineering scams. Their new “gaming friend” may try to con them into providing a credit card number, typically with the promise of game codes, skins or cheats. Make sure to talk to your child about not spending money on online gaming accessories without asking for your permission first.

Credit card fraud is nothing new, but young people might not be as adept at spotting trouble. Here’s what parents can do.

  • Do not use debit cards connected directly to a bank account. Use a credit card instead, as credit cards typically come with stronger consumer protections for fraudulent charges.
  • Check account spending and report suspicious activity to your financial institution immediately, no matter how small the amount. Small amounts almost always give way to larger fraud once the card has been “tested.”
  • To ensure online security, avoid saving credit card information with online gaming portals and do not share card information with children.
  • Consider purchasing a dark-web monitoring solution that alerts if your payment card numbers and other personal data are found on the dark web.

Denial of Service Attacks

Abusive players use Denial of Service (DoS). Gaming platforms can’t prevent these attacks because they happen locally outside of the service. Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service is a good way to proactively avoid being impacted by these types of cyberattacks. If you suspect that a platform you use is showing signs of a DoS attack, follow these steps immediately:

  • Reset your internet modem and Wi-Fi router (this could mean just unplugging the power for 60 seconds).
  • Contact your internet service provider if the problem persists, so they can assign a new IP address.
  • Report the fraud to the applicable game network and, if known, which player attacked you. Each gaming platform will have its own reporting process, so you’ll need to contact them directly.

Level-Up Your Holiday Gaming Plan

If your kids’ holiday downtime will include time playing games on a phone, console or computer, there are many common-sense ways parents can protect against emerging fraud and security issues. Like with any online activity in the modern world, the key is to remain alert and aware so that your family can enjoy the things that matter most this season.