Fortnite Money Laundering Has a Mobile Payments Connection

January 23, 2019         By: Steven Anderson

Fortnite was easily one of the most popular video games of 2018, and that popularity has held so far going into the new year. The game that combines construction and battle royale-style gameplay has proven a welcome addition to gamers’ portfolios, but new reports suggest that it’s also proven valuable for criminals, especially those using stolen credit cards and needing a way to launder the money therein.

Essentially, the perfidy in question works like this: a criminal with a stolen credit card fires up a copy of Fortnite, which said criminal then uses to buy the game’s currency, V-bucks. The V-bucks in question are then resold at a hefty discount via a range of possible vendors, starting with legitimate platforms like eBay and going all the way to shady dark web websites.

Since Fortnite counts over 200 million players around the world to its credit—roughly the equivalent of the entire nation of Nigeria at roughly 208.7 million—finding buyers for V-bucks isn’t exactly hard, so the sales are made comparatively quickly and get the criminals clean cash. An investigation from Sixgill, a cyber security firm, found that in the last 60 days, a quarter-million dollars’ worth of Fortnite items had been sold on eBay, which makes it clear there’s a lot of room for criminals to edge in and make money.

A separate investigation from ZeroFOX, an IT security firm, found there were 53,000 online scams directly connected to Fortnite in the period between early September and early October 2018. Around 86 percent had been shared on social media platforms.

Some here would blame Epic Games, Fortnite’s maker, but that might be a stretch too far; sure, it might be able to make some changes on its end to help address the problem. If it goes far enough with that, it’ll be slitting its own throat to protect credit card companies, and that just won’t happen. The notion of being able to resell in-game items has been a concept prized by gamers—it effectively allows gamers to make money from their hobby—so any game that can offer such a capability will be prized.

Still, with money laundering now likely a thing, everyone involved does have at least some obligation, even just a moral one, to help keep the Fortnite criminals at bay.