Despite all the FUD. Bitcoin is not the currency of choice for criminals. However, Fortnite V-Bucks are now a popular money laundering choice on the dark web.
One of the attacks on Bitcoin is that it’s used a lot for criminal activities. It is true that some ransomware demands are made in BTC, but the reality is that the vast majority of Bitcoin transactions are for legitimate reasons. Congressional testimony by law enforcement reinforces this fact. Still, nocoiners and the media love to connect Bitcoin to crime. However, a popular new currency choice by criminals may surprise you – the V-Bucks in-game currency used in Fortnite.
Fortnite and Money Laundering
To say that Fortnite is a success is a massive understatement. Parents across the world are in despair as their children spend every waking moment playing the game, and Epic Games is reeling in the big bucks. Last year, the battle royale game earned a profit of $3 billion.
The venue of the cash raking is the in-game currency, V-Bucks. People buy V-Bucks, which are then spent on customization options, of which the game offers up plenty of choices.
So how does money laundering and Bitcoin come into play? Well, let’s first examine the hysteria often associated with Bitcoin. Detractors have spent years tying the coin to nefarious enterprises, totally ignoring the fact that BTC transactions are easily traced – something criminals are not big fans of. Plus, criminals use fiat every day for buying and selling illegal things, but you don’t see the same critics complaining about the euro or dollar.
V-Bucks and the Dark Web
The Independent has done an extensive investigation into V-Bucks and their use on the dark web. What they found was extremely interesting.
The Independent worked with the Sixgill cybersecurity firm, and they found a thriving black market dealing with Fortnite V-Bucks. Criminals are using stolen credit card info to buy as many V-Bucks as they possibly can, and they then sell the in-game currency in bulk for a hefty discount.
The criminals are even selling such V-Bucks on the open web by using social media platforms, although the amounts sold are less than those on the dark web. Gamers are snapping up the illicitly-gotten V-Bucks to fund their gaming desires at a discount.
This selling is worldwide as researchers found sales being conducted in English, Russian, Chinese, Arabic, and Spanish. Benjamin Preminger, a senior intelligence analyst at Sixgill, says:
Criminals are executing carding fraud and getting money in and out of the Fortnite system with relative impunity.
Threat actors [a malicious person or entity] are scoffing at Epic Games’ weak security measures, saying that the company doesn’t seem to care about players defrauding the system and purchasing discounted V-bucks… This directly touches on the ability of threat actors to launder money through the game.
Preminger goes on to lambaste Epic Games some more, stating:
While completely stopping such criminal activity is extremely difficult, several steps could be taken to mitigate the phenomenon, including monitoring the transfer of high-value goods in the game, identifying players with large stockpiles of V-bucks, and sharing data with relevant law enforcement agencies.
Of course, Epic Games seems fine with all the money rolling in, no matter where it comes from. They could argue that it’s not their fault that someone’s stolen credit card info is used to buy V-Bucks. Even if they refunded some people for purchases made on their cards, it’s still a drop in the company’s $3 billion bucket of cash. With so much money pouring in, they have little incentive to actually tighten up their security.
Overall, Bitcoin has been unfairly maligned for years as the criminals’ choice for money laundering when the reality is that criminals will use whatever is handy. In the past, it was cash, then gift cards, and now it’s Fortnite V-Bucks. Yet critics will only suggest that better security measures be taken and not disparage the very existence of V-Bucks. Such was not the case with Bitcoin.
What do you think about criminals using V-Bucks to launder money? Let us know in the comments below.
Images courtesy of Fortnite/Epic Games and YouTube/@Fortnite.