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It’s All Fun and Games Until Someone Loses a Credit Card: Safety in Online Games

Before the cellphone era, gaming was a pretty secure business. You bought a disk or deck of cards and played it many times until you grew bored. On the surface, today’s gaming seems like an improvement. It is incredibly convenient to have all your games on a single device in your pocket. 

The downside, though, is that everything else — your phone number, your email address, even your financial information — may all be on that device, too. It’s become easier for online scammers to take what they want. Be on the lookout for these three ways mobile games take your money so you can better protect yourself!

 In-app purchases

 In-app purchases are deceptively simple. You “buy” a free game in the app store, thinking you got a bargain. You play the game for a few minutes, enjoying yourself as you take on your friends at trivia or popping bubbles. Then, you hit a snag — you’ve maxed out the number of games you can play in one day and you’ll have to wait 24 hours to play again. You’re frustrated and willing to do anything to keep playing. The game offers you a solution: pay a small fee of “just” $0.99 to continue playing — and paying.

Phishing scams

This type of app requires you to set up an account with the app manufacturer’s website, to ensure your game is secure. It asks for your email address, as well as a username and password. As would most consumers, you input your email info, a username and password you use for everything. Any other system you use that password for can now be compromised. Another version of this scam is when an email supposedly from the game company tells you to login through a link in the email to get a fabulous in-game prize. Of course, there is no prize, and the email was a tool for scammers to collect your login information.

The best way to prevent losing your information from this approach is by doing your research. Do a quick search of the app you’re considering to ensure it’s a safe one.

“Bonus credit”

This one begins the same way an in-app purchases scam does. You buy the app, you play it for awhile and then it says you’ve run out of credits. To get more credits, you have to watch an advertisement or take an IQ quiz. The advertisements are almost always legit, but the “IQ quiz” includes an agreement to pay $10 a month on a phone bill!

This scam is especially sneaky because crooks don’t need access to a credit card number or a login. All that’s necessary is for one user on a family plan, even a child, to click through a service agreement without reading it carefully.

Awareness and common sense are the keys. Avoid apps that ask you for purchases to play or use. Research apps before you give them any personal information. Have fun but stay safe!