Simply mind these few rules for safe gaming purchases
Passionate gamers regularly splurge on both hardware and software needed for their virtual hobbies. This year, with many people working from home, the gaming market saw a significant profit increase. Digital games earned $11.5 billion this November, the highest monthly revenue ever. Moreover, being one of the most exciting home entertainment types, gaming is projected to grow faster than the entertainment market’s average, reaching 36% of all entertainment value in 2023.
Whereas gaming consoles, PCs, and headsets are usually sold at reliable tech stores, when it comes to games, virtual accessories, artifacts, mods, or other in-game items, people often get caught in traps set by scammers. In-app purchase fraud is particularly flourishing in “freemium” games that are free-to-play, with in-app purchases to continue past a certain point or upgrade/advance to another level. These allow the customer to make microtransactions through their own storefronts. Reselling goods bought with stolen card details can be a highly lucrative business for fraudsters – with items like rifle skins selling for up to $60,000.
Yet, that’s not a reason to stop online game-shopping altogether.
1. Buy legally
Obviously, the shadier the shopping platform you choose for buying your game extensions, the more risk you get. Scammers may offer lower prices, luring special offers, various cheat-treats that will help you boost your game performance without extra efforts, etc. However, there are never any guarantees if you don’t buy from official sources. Therefore, if you want to spice up your game, look for mods on official developer sites like Steam Workshop. Gaming apps and related software can be downloaded from Google Play, Apple Store, or PlayStation Store. Steam, GOG, Humble Bundle, itch.io, or Epic Games Store are also legitimate and valid gaming marketplaces.
In addition, if you decide to buy or sell your gaming account, you may as well become a target for criminals. Since it’s against the game policies in most cases, such transactions rarely occur via reputable shopping platforms. Many fraudsters are attracted to this kind of half-legal trade since their victims are less likely to report the cybertheft. They may sell stolen or fake accounts. Hence, consider the high chances of being deceived before violating the game’s terms & conditions.
2. Ensure online hygiene
When you’re shopping online, whether for in-game items or not, a few common rules apply. Firstly, mind the safety of your Internet connection. Public Wi-Fi spots are a no-no for sensitive banking details. The info on public networks is often transmitted unencrypted, giving other people potential access to it. If you’re in a public place and can’t wait to start your shopping spree – at least, use a VPN. Secondly, keep your PC, laptop, and other connected devices clean – protect them with reliable antivirus programs. Next, don’t store your passwords, change them regularly, make them secure, and don’t use the same password for all the accounts and apps you have.
The last piece of precaution is using a separate bank card for online shopping. This dedicated card should never be full of cash. Load money onto it only before you’re going to buy something, and even if your gaming account gets hacked – the thieves won’t get much. Prepaid cards without overdraft possibility are perfect for this purpose. If you don’t want to have a lot of cards in your wallet – at least set minimal online shopping limits. However, some banks issue virtual cards specifically for Internet purchases.
3. Save wisely
Suspicious links with super promotions coming from unknown accounts might ruin your financial safety instead of bringing extra discounts. Even if they come from fellow-gamers you know, remember that accounts get hacked sometimes, so double-check if your friend has really sent you anything. Be especially careful when someone shared a link to a discounted game, but the page wants you to log in. The rule of thumb for suspicious links is – don’t open them. Even if you believe the link is not a scam, manually enter the URL of the developer’s or store’s website in your browser and see if the discount or a special offer is mentioned there.
Instead of looking for some shady discounts, check out payment cards bringing gamers bonus rewards. Some banks offer extra cashback on gaming platforms and in-game bonuses, others have cashback on all entertainment purchases. Gaming giants like Razer are entering the fintech industry too. With a new Razer Card, that has so far launched for beta testing only in Singapore, gamers can have generous cashback on purchases, enjoy the unique gamified rewards system in the Razer Pay app, and see their card logo glow green when making a payment.
4. Read the fine print
Terms & Conditions, as well as sections like Payment & Delivery, are an essential part of every shopping platform interface. Read them, and be especially attentive to the Return & Refund policies. The games may turn out to be not what you’ve expected or not work properly on your device. However, many stores limit the return time to 24-48 hours from the time of purchase. Apple Store allows returning software, only provided that it has not been installed on any computer and if the seal or sticker on the software media packaging isn’t broken. It doesn’t refund electronic software downloads or software upgrades. Some items bought on sale may not be refundable at all even if the store policies generally allow such returns. Consider those factors before making a purchase decision.
5. Secure your banking and gaming accounts
If you’re playing on Steam, you can do more than choosing a strong password. The platform has two-factor authentication (2FA) called Steam Guard. If you enable this option, logging into your account from an unknown device will require not only your password but also an additional code sent to your e-mail or generated in the mobile app. Those codes are updated automatically every 30 seconds and are valid only for one-time use. Furthermore, if you forget to log out on someone else’s computer, or suspect that you’ve been hacked, you can force a logout on all devices except for the one that you are using now. In the Settings menu choose “Manage Steam Guard Account Security” or “Manage Steam Guard” and click “Deauthorize all other devices”.
In Battle.net settings, you can also choose an additional security question to protect your password from being reset. Yet, the question and answer shouldn’t be too obvious – something only you may know. 2FA option and logging out from all other devices also work here.
Try to avoid using any social network profiles to sign in to gaming stores if you can help it. You can check which sites you’ve logged in to through social networks. To find the list on Facebook, go to Settings, then click Apps and Websites in the left-hand menu. If you used your social profile for gaming purchases or other online purchases, protect it better than ever.
When it comes to banking accounts and apps, you must already know the security rules as you know your ABC. Let’s remind you that banking officials never ask for CVV codes, usernames, and passwords, etc. You may be asked to verify confidential information if you call your bank, but your personal details shouldn’t be revealed during a call from an unknown number claiming to be from a bank employee. Banks also don’t make you click on links or open attachments If you’ve missed our recent article on mobile banking safety, you can read it here.