Summary: Gaming and e-sports are a huge, popular industry. And they’re tons of fun. But did you know that you can also experience a security breach from gaming and have your financial information stolen? Here are Norton’s five best tips for staying safer while gaming online.
Spending more time slaying dragons, jumping over lava pits, and shooting aliens? You’re not alone. A survey released in 2022 from CenturyLink found that 68% of U.S. residents play video games regularly, with 30% of respondents saying that they play eight to 12 hours a week.
And a growing number of video game fans are playing online, chatting with their fellow gamers while defending castles, hitting home runs, and fleeing zombies during their favorite games.
The rise of online gaming has meant a more immersive and social experience for gamers. But it has also brought problems, including a rise in scammers trying to trick gamers into giving up their credit card and bank account information, paying for power-ups that they never deliver and sharing their personal identification.
Fortunately, you can protect your identity and finances while gaming online. It just requires a bit of common sense and the ability to recognize when online “friends” are launching a scam against you.
1. Only Download Games from Legitimate Sources
One of the best ways to protect yourself while gaming is only downloading video games from their makers or other legitimate sources.
Some hackers create fake versions of popular games and sell them at a discount or for free. But when you download these files, you won’t find any game. Instead, you’ll flood your laptop, tablet, or smartphone with malware.
This malware might allow hackers to spy on your keystrokes or snoop on the websites you visit. This could give them login information that will allow them to access your online credit card portals or bank accounts. Other malware lets cybercriminals take remote control of your computer. Others allow crooks to use your device to send spam mail to your entire list of contacts.
If you are downloading a mobile game, only download it from trusted sources such as the App Store from Apple or Google Play if you are using an Android device. And if you are downloading other online games, download them directly from their manufacturers. This is the best way to avoid accidentally infecting your computer with spam or malware.
2. Be Careful Of Free Power-ups, Cheat Codes, and Upgrades
Many of the most popular online games today give players the chance to buy in-game upgrades, everything from more powerful armor and cheat codes to new uniforms and weapons. These are rarely free.
Be careful if someone offers you these in-game upgrades at no price or one that is heavily discounted. It might be a sign of a scam.
You might buy upgrades only to find that, again, you’ve downloaded a virus or malware to your computer. In other cases, a seller might ask for your credit card or bank account information. When you provide this, you don’t receive any in-game purchases. Instead, the scammer behind the request does use your credit card or bank account information to make unauthorized purchases in your name.
The advice here is like our recommendation on buying games online: Only make purchases from reputable sources. For power-ups, new uniforms, advanced in-game weapons and cheat codes, this means buying directly from whatever company creates and funs the game you are playing. Never make in-game purchases from strangers you meet online. If you do, you might expose yourself to financial pain.
3. Keep Your Personal and Financial Information Private
Part of the attraction of online gaming is the chance to chat and communicate with your fellow gamers. But this social aspect of online gaming can also prove dangerous.
Scammers often befriend players, building online relationships with them over months of gaming. Gamers might get so comfortable, that they eventually provide their online friends with their personal or financial information, including their names, birthdates, and addresses.
Be careful: Clever scammers can use this information to steal your identity. Some might use it to take out loans or credit card accounts in your name. Others might use it to pay for medical care (and charge it to you) or to access your online credit card and bank accounts.
Never provide personal or financial information to someone you only know from the online gaming world. You never know if people hiding behind an avatar or a string of chatroom messages are who they say they are.
4. Watch Your Online Gaming Accounts Carefully
Many gamers have their online gaming accounts connected to their credit cards and bank accounts, allowing them to quickly make in-game purchases. Others have these accounts connected to the bank accounts or credit card portals of their parents.
This, too, can lead to trouble. If hackers can access your accounts, whether through malware or by convincing you to give them enough information to break into them, they can then use them to run up charges on your credit cards or purchases from your bank accounts.
It’s important, then, to check your bank and credit card accounts every day for unauthorized purchases. And if you do find purchases or withdrawals that you know you didn’t make, call your bank or credit card provider immediately. You want to freeze your cards and bank accounts before scammers can make any additional illegal purchases.
If you are a parent, make sure your gaming kids can’t authorize purchases with your credit card or bank accounts without your permission. It’s best to make sure that your children’s online gaming accounts aren’t connected to your financial accounts.
5. Never Meet Up with Someone You’ve Only Met Online
It’s an unfortunate truth, but many predators use online gaming to target children. It’s important, then, to remember that the people you meet online might not be who they say they are. They might instead be predators or criminals.
Never give your address to people you only know online. And never agree to an in-person meeting with these people.
If you are a parent, warn your children about online predators, and teach them to keep their personal information, including their address and school, private. Never allow your children to meet up with a gamer they’ve only met online.
Gaming can be a great source of entertainment and connection, and with a few safety considerations online, it can help keep your game time fun and carefree. Pro tip: high-speed fiber internet helps with that, too. We can get you hooked up with speeds up to 5 Gigs and plans starting at $54.95. Plus, we make staying safer online easier than ever. Check out our cyber safety package, powered by Norton and get your first 30 days for free.