FBI warns of cryptocurrency theft via “play-to-earn” games

Cybercriminals are now using fake rewards in so-called “play-to-earn” mobile and online games to steal millions worth of cryptocurrency, according to an FBI warning on Thursday.

They do this using custom-created gaming apps that promise huge financial rewards directly proportional to investments to potential targets they’ve established trust with beforehand in lengthy online conversations.

“Criminals contact victims online and build a relationship with victims over time,” the FBI issued via the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).

“Criminals then introduce victims to an online or mobile game, in which players purportedly earn cryptocurrency rewards in exchange for some activity, such as growing ‘crops’ on an animated farm.”

To be able to participate in these big reward games, the victims are instructed to buy cryptocurrency and create a crypto wallet. The scammers tell them that the purported rewards are higher the more funds the victim stores in this wallet.

The criminals will then tempt victims with fake rewards to entice them to deposit more and more funds but will drain their wallets once the victim stops making deposits.

To make matters even worse, the crooks will tell the victims they can recover their investment by paying additional taxes or fees, but it’s all just a ruse, with the victims being left empty-handed, even after paying these extra fees.

How to defend against these scams

Gamers are advised to stay vigilant and be cautious of unsolicited messages or invitations to games promising unrealistic financial rewards.

You should never forget that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

FBI shared the following tips to help potential targets to defend themselves against such scams:

  • If you wish to participate in cryptocurrency-based gaming, create a unique wallet. This isolates your primary cryptocurrency holdings should you unknowingly grant illicit actors access to your gaming wallet.
  • Use a third-party blockchain explorer to independently check the balances of the addresses in your gaming wallet.
  • Periodically use a third-party token allowance checker to help you see which sites or apps you have inadvertently permitted to access funds in your wallet and revoke those permissions.

FBI urges all victims to report incidents via the to help put a stop to these scams.

In October, the FBI also of a rise in ‘Pig Butchering’ cryptocurrency scams stealing ever-increasing amounts of crypto from unsuspecting investors.

A previous FBI alert of cybercriminals using fraudulent cryptocurrency investment applications to target their funds.