Protecting Your Games From Online Fraud

Protecting Your Games From Online Fraud

Life delivers few experiences as stomach-dropping as the sudden realization that someone has gone on a bender with your stolen credit card information. Even though it’s wonderful to be a gamer in an era where scoring great games is as simple as selecting them from an online menu, the trade-off is a civilization wherein a determined hacker can walk away with your information for the sake of financial gain. Identity theft and money-making scams are as old as human communication, but our wired world makes it easier than ever to steal personal info.

The particularly vicious Spring 2011 attack on the PlayStation Network is a good example of the pain a hacker can inflict: Not only was personal information stolen from Sony’s databases, but PS3 and PSP owners were unable to access any of their systems’ online features. And if nothing else, the PSN’s downtime served as a good reminder that our enjoyment of modern gaming relies quite a bit on online functionality.

Sometimes, despite all your best efforts to remain safe, your personal data will still be haxx0red and spirited away. Even so, you should take as many precautions as possible to prevent the theft from occurring or re-occurring. Here are some general suggestions for upping your online safety, as well as some gaming-specific tips:

Keep a sharp eye on your bank statements and credit card statements: Sometimes we avoid looking at our bank account balances, statements and credit reports on a regular basis: The news is usually depressing. But the worst time to discover that you’ve been robbed is while you’re standing in a queue for groceries and panicking over a message on the credit card terminal that more or less states, “LOL no.” Keep an eye on your bank account every day. Look up your credit balance, too. Most banks and credit card companies offer online statements that are up-to-the-minute. Note where purchases were made. If nothing is out of the ordinary, you’re golden.

Shred paper statements and credit reports: If your bank and/or credit card company mails you paper statements (most do on a monthly basis), shred them before you dispose of them. Make sure visible account numbers are thoroughly trashed. Better yet, switch to online statements. Mother Nature will hug you.

If a problem arises, notify your bank and/or credit card company right away: By keeping a close watch on your statements, you’ll be able to notify your bank and credit card company if some fishy spending pops up on the record. The quicker you do so, the more efficiently the problem gets resolved (not that it’s a picnic, either way). It’s more than likely that you will be advised to shut down the cards that have been compromised, and you will be issued new cards and new PINs.

File a police report: You should let local police know that your information has been accessed illegally. Some police departments have specific divisions for dealing with fraud. Depending on the police department, you’ll either be asked to fill in a fraud report in person or over the phone. Filing a report online might be an option, too.

If you live in America, file a report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC): Getting in touch with the FTC and sharing your woes can provide the organization with needed information for catching hackers. Visit the FTC’s website for more information.

Don’t use the same passwords everywhere online: Half the web pages created on planet Earth require you to create an account to access their information. This means keeping track of a whole mess of passwords. Most people don’t write down their passwords, and instead use the same passwords for all their personal accounts. Hackers know this too, and might try to burrow into your personal accounts using whatever password they nicked from you during an attack. It’s important to make sure your especially sensitive accounts–Facebook, email, bank websites–have varied and secure passwords. Need tips on remembering one password from the other? Here are some good ones.

When buying online games and services, use point cards or pre-paid credit cards: It’s difficult for hackers to swipe your credit card info if it’s not hanging around in a database. Want an Xbox Live Gold membership? Buy it from GameStop. Want games? Buy point cards for the Wii Shop Channel, Nintendo DSi Channel, PSN, or XBLA. Point cards are widely accessible, as you can net them in game retailers and drug stores.

Special Thanks: G4

 

About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for 1UP.com, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is About.com’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.

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