The video game Fortnite has experienced a meteoric rise in popularity, reaching over 125 million players in less than a year. In May 2018, less than a year after the game’s release in July 2017, the game raked in a record $318 million in revenue in just one month. While the game is free to play, there is the option to purchase in-game currency to spend on cosmetic items for use in the game. The money laundering opportunity is created by the presence of an in-game store of value.
According to an investigation by The Independent, online scammers are using stolen credit card details to purchase in game currency that they then sell at a discount. Scammers are able to purchase thousands of stolen credit card details on the dark web and use them to purchase Fortnite’s V-bucks. The V-bucks are then listed in bulk at discounted prices on the dark web or in smaller quantities on mainstream social media platforms. Through the sale of the in-game virtual currency to other players, the scammers are able to convert the stolen funds from the credit cards to cash, bitcoin, or other pseudo-anonymous cryptocurrencies.
The extent of the illegal activity through Fortnite is still unclear, but cyber security firm Sixgill found over $250,000 in sales of Fortnite items in a 60 day period on eBay alone. This suggests much larger social media and dark web based markets.
While completely stopping fraud and money laundering is impossible, Fortnite’s creator, Epic Games, should implement a robust transaction monitoring system and a case investigation team to help detect and report instances of illegal activity to law enforcement.