Fortnite is one of the top games in the esports industry, grossing over a multi-billion dollars per year from in-game purchases. But while there's a white and clean side to the internet, there's a side loaded with stolen information for sale. From personal details to credit card numbers to login credentials, all is available in a place that people call The Dark Web.
The sale of stolen video game accounts is a black market that amounts to over $1 Billion per year, and a majority of their shares come from Fortnite accounts and their precious in-game currency called V-Bucks.
Epic Games has always kept users' security in mind and has taken strict actions against those who violate their regulations. However, hackers have continuously exploited Epic's security and found a way to farm V-Bucks, gift in-game cosmetics using illegitimate methods, and trade inactive accounts on the white web using mainstream platforms, creating their own Item Shop in the system.
The Fortnite black market racket and how it operates
Hackers have been stealing inactive video game accounts ever since they discovered glitches and workarounds, easily getting past the security systems of the developers' servers.
Using the Dark Web and Cybercrime methods, they steal inactive accounts on systems such as XBOX, PS4, or even Nintendo, especially those with an active payment method linked to them. They then purchase V-Bucks from a region where they can get it much cheaper, like Brazil, where the exchange rate of local currency is much lower than USD.
Hackers can then remove the original payment method and change the account credentials to sell it off on the Dark or the White web for a much lower price than the original value of these in-game currencies. However, Fortnite players who buy them can later on sell those accounts to collectors for a higher value, depending upon the rarity of in-game cosmetics.
The hacker community named these stolen V-Bucks as "Nintendo V-Bucks Method" and "XBOX V-Bucks Method". Although farming these illegitimate V-Bucks has very minimal to do with the Nintendo Marketplace, it is a safer platform for these hackers to stay off the radar from Cybercrime authorities.
Who operates these marketplaces?
Taken into a dark web loop are teenagers from age 12-16 who are active players in Fortnite and have regular interactions with the player community. Hackers then show these kids the methods of acquiring V-Bucks and make them their sellers.
These kids then set up virtual marketplaces on platforms like WhatsApp, Discord, and Telegram, where they can sell V-Bucks and Nintendo Gifting of in-game cosmetics for pennies. Every year in India, over 15000 kids get added to the existing marketplace of buyers and sellers, with some making a fortune of over $2000 a month.
Consequences that their customers and Fortnite players suffer
Every time a Fortnite player falls into greed for more cosmetics and V-Bucks, they suffer major consequences that Epic hits them with. This affects their overall account which may result in a permanent account, IP, or hardware ban from which the user may lose access to it altogether.
If a user has purchased such Nintendo or XBOX V-Bucks on their account, Epic may revoke those V-Bucks from the user's account, resulting in a Negative V-Bucks value. To bring it back to positive, the player will have to purchase legitimate V-Bucks and bring it back to zero.
For cosmetics and illegitimate gifting of items, Epic has removed countless cosmetics from the player's locker and issued them with a warning. After repeated warnings and revokes, if a player continues to buy V-Bucks or gets gifted using bots or illegitimate methods, it will lead to a permanent ban.
As this underground market continues to grow, one can only hope that Epic Games takes strict action against those who abuse these guidelines. Only time can tell if the gaming industry can become a much safer place for those who wish to enjoy it ethically.
Note: The article reflects the writer's personal views.
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