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Forget Bitcoin: Why Criminals are Using Fortnite to Launder Illicit Funds

Last Updated March 4, 2021 2:51 PM
Jimmy Aki
Last Updated March 4, 2021 2:51 PM

By CCN.com: With well over 200 million users across the globe, few video games have as large a following as Fortnite. The freemium game is so popular that its developer, Epic Games, banked $3 billion in 2018. However, according to a report on the Independent , Epic Games isn’t the only entity getting rich off Fortnite. V-Bucks, the game’s official in-game currency, are increasingly being used as a tool for money laundering on the dark web.

How Fortnite V-Bucks are Used to Launder Money

According to researchers, hackers are using stolen credit cards to purchase V-Bucks. From there, the purchased V-Bucks are resold at a discount rate to players, as a means of “cleaning up” the currency. Cyber-security firm Sixgill first discovered these activities. The company’s agents reportedly uncovered the operations by pretending to be potential customers and engaging in transactions with some of the criminals.

Benjamin Preminger, a Senior Intelligence Analyst at Sixgill, said:

Criminals are executing carding fraud and getting money in and out of the Fortnite system with relative impunity.

It is unclear how much money the scammers have been able to make from these operations. However, Sixgill also noted that the amount of money flowing around Fortnite had seen exponential increases as the game continues to grow in popularity.

A Practical Scam for the Dark Web

The scam operation makes much sense. Ever since its release, the online battle royale game has been a massive hit, attracting hundreds of millions of players in the process. The majority of these players are kids and teenagers, who are impressionable and can often easily be scammed.

The dark web, the secluded part of the internet that can only be accessed via specialized software, is where a lot of online criminal activities are conducted. While the money laundering being conducted with Fortnite’s V-Bucks can be found on other aspects of the internet (such as social media platforms), these activities are reportedly being carried out on a much larger scale on the dark web.

Are V-Bucks the New Bitcoin?

bitcoin drugs dark web cryptocurrency crypto
Bitcoin critics often attack its perceived role in global money laundering operations and the drug trade. | Source: Shutterstock

While it has found increasing use as a store of value and means of exchange in some quarters, Bitcoin has also drawn ire as an alleged tool for criminal activities. According to crypto research firm CipherTrace, criminals laundered  over $2.5 billion worth of Bitcoin use from January 2009 to September 2018.

Epic Games, the developer of Fortnite, intends to stamp out V-Buck laundering before it grows to that scale. Speaking with the Hollywood Reporter, a spokesperson for the company said:

Epic Games takes these issues seriously, as chargebacks and fraud put our players and our business at risk. As always, we encourage players to protect their accounts by turning on two-factor authentication, not re-using passwords and using strong passwords, and not sharing account information with others.

The ‘Milly Rock’ Lawsuit

This new report is only the latest in a growing list of struggles for Fortnite and its producer. In addition to the money laundering claims, Epic Games is also facing a lawsuit from rapper 2 Milly  over the developers’ misappropriation of the “Milly Rock” dance. The lawsuit was filed last month. The dance, which was featured back in 2014 in a video for “Milly Rock” (a song, which bears the same name as the dance), was added by Epic Games to Fortnite’s fifth season, albeit under the moniker “Swipe It.”

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