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Financial crime through video games is on the rise

FOR PEOPLE who enjoy being (virtually) shot in the head by foul-mouthed teenagers, Counter-Strike has long led the field. The game, developed by Valve Corporation, pits a team of terrorists against an anti-terrorist commando squad in a fight to the death. Its various iterations have helped make Steam, a digital marketplace for video games also run by Valve, among the most successful in the industry. But Counter-Strike has appealed to more than just twitchy young men of late. On October 28th Valve announced it was stopping the trading between players of container keysan in-game gambling device that players can buy (with real money) to try to win (virtual) rewards such as special weapons or clothing. The firm says nearly all of the trades of such keys were believed to be fraud-sourced. It is a rare admission of the growing problem of using video games to facilitate financial crime.The company has released no further details, and did not reply to a request for information from The Economist. But it seems likely that the keys, which were bought with stolen credit cards, were then traded between accounts on Steams marketplace. Players cannot withdraw real money from their accounts, but in-game credit can be used to buy new virtual rewards or games. There is a burgeoning market (on third-party websites) for accounts already loaded up with virtual cash. Criminals can cash out by selling to gamers keen to acquire games or virtual items cheaply.
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