How Kids’ Videogame Accounts Get Hacked: Advice for Parents

How Kids’ Videogame Accounts Get Hacked(hak): Advice for Parents

Online gaming has surged(sərj)—and so has fraud(frôd)—as children play more during the coronavirus crisis

By Julie Jargon

After his high school switched to remote learning last spring, Luke Martin had a lot of extra time on his hands. He filled his idle(ˈīdl) hours playing videogames. Then he got hacked.

One day in April(ˈāprəl) when he tried logging into the online gaming platform Steam, he received a message saying his credentials(krəˈden(t)SHəl) were incorrect(ˌinkəˈrekt). After Steam’s customer-service desk helped him get back into his account, he discovered that $200 of games he had purchased(ˈpərCHəs) had vanished(ˈvaniSH). Even the $1.10 he had remaining in his account was gone. He checked the login history and found that someone had been signing into his account from an IP address in Moldova(mälˈdōvə).

The quarantine(ˈkwôrənˌtēn)-induced surge in gaming last spring, especially among children, has brought with it a surge in fraudsters(ˈfrôdstər) looking for opportunity. Online gaming traffic(ˈtrafik) rose 30% in the second quarter compared with the first, and attempts to hack into players’ accounts and steal(stēl) their digital goods rose, too, according to Kevin Gosschalk, chief(CHēf) executive of Arkose(ˈärˌkōs) Labs, a fraud-and-abuse prevention(prəˈven(t)SH(ə)n) company for gaming merchants(ˈmərCHənt) and other retailers(ˈrētālər).

While you might not consider a videogame hack to be as devastating(ˈdevəˌstādiNG) as a bank-account breach(brēCH), let alone a home burglary(ˈbərɡlərē), victims(ˈviktəm) do lose personal property and funds as a result. Digital currency(ˈkərənsē) and items ranging(rānj) from weapons(ˈwepən) to “skins,” the outfits(ˈoutˌfit) worn by players’ avatars(ˈavəˌtär), can be worth a lot to hackers who sell them in online marketplaces.