FBI Warns of Cryptocurrency Theft Through ‘Play to Win’ Games

Cybercriminals are now using fake rewards in so-called “play to win” mobile and online games to steal millions in cryptocurrency, according to an FBI warning Thursday.

They do this using custom-built gaming apps that promise huge financial rewards directly proportional to investments in potential targets with whom they have established trust beforehand in lengthy online conversations.

“Criminals contact victims online and build a relationship with victims over time,” the FBI says in a public service announcement issued through the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).

“Criminals then present victims with an online or mobile game, in which players allegedly earn cryptocurrency rewards in exchange for some activity, such as growing ‘crops’ on an animated farm.”

In order to participate in these big bounty games, victims are instructed to buy cryptocurrency and create a crypto wallet. The scammers tell them that the supposed rewards are higher the more funds the victim stores in this wallet.

The criminals will then lure victims with fake rewards to entice them to deposit more and more funds, but will deplete their wallets once the victim stops making deposits.

To make matters worse, the crooks will tell the victims that they can recoup their investment by paying additional taxes or fees, but it is all just a ruse, and the victims are left empty-handed, even after paying these additional fees.

How to defend yourself against these scams

Players are advised to remain vigilant and beware of unsolicited messages or game invites that promise unrealistic financial rewards.

You should never forget that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

The FBI shared the following tips to help potential targets defend themselves against these types of scams:

  • If you want to participate in cryptocurrency-based gaming, create a unique wallet. This isolates your major cryptocurrency holdings in case you unknowingly grant illicit actors access to your gaming wallet.
  • Use a third-party blockchain explorer to independently verify address balances in your game wallet.
  • Periodically use a third-party token allocation checker to help you see which sites or apps you have inadvertently allowed to access the funds in your wallet and revoke those permissions.

The FBI urges all victims to report incidents through the Internet Crime Complaint Center to help stop these scams.

In October, the FBI also warned of an increase in ‘Pig Butchering’ cryptocurrency scams that steal increasing amounts of cryptocurrency from unsuspecting investors.

An earlier FBI alert warned investors about cybercriminals using fraudulent cryptocurrency investment apps to target their funds.

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James D. Brown
James D. Brown
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