I previously wrote about a site called G2A which sells stolen cd keys for cheaper prices and how the other “legitimate” cd key selling sites are the thing fueling it, but most people won’t care if a company is affected. That’s where account marketplaces come in. Account marketplaces are advertised as a place for players to sell their own accounts to other players, but the majority of accounts are not sold by the original owner. It may not seem like a big deal, but if you aren’t careful, your own account may someday be sold on one of these marketplaces.
Some sites have players that are selling legitimate accounts, but the majority of accounts are either stolen or carded. Carded accounts are more expensive, and the process involves the seller creating an account, buying and refunding a game off a third party site, and activating the game on the account. There is no way to actually prove this method is used, but all the accounts have had the game either gifted or redeemed. Though you could argue they found it for cheaper than they sold it for and are legitimate, these sellers have thousands of accounts with the same game activated the same way.
The other type of accounts are stolen accounts. All sellers say that the accounts they are selling were acquired using legal means, but that simply isn’t true. Many sellers use phishing sites and malware to steal accounts, which they then resell for a profit. The accounts will typically be recovered later on, but the damage done to the account will typically remain. Carded accounts tend to be anywhere from ten to fifty dollars cheaper than the original cost of the game, so for the majority of people it seems like a worthwhile investment. However, you’re potentially damaging small game reselling accounts as well as indie game companies that have are trying to make a profit through legitimate means.
There was a comment on my article about G2A pointing out that not every key selling site is making money through illegitimate means, but sadly these smaller sites are fueling both G2A and in the trading of carded accounts. Keys will be bought in bulk using stolen credit cards off these smaller sites that don’t have a way to protect against refunds, as well as off sites like G2A. These keys will be activated on accounts, and the account will be sold for a fraction of the price of the original game. Though there is no issue of it being recovered and the developer of the game will most likely still turn a profit, a large amount of publishers who sell keys to their own games as well as small sites that sell legitimate games, will lose major amounts of money. Even though the key has been refunded, the platform itself won’t take action against the account. However, for a buyer who is either uninformed or just doesn’t care about smaller companies, buying carded accounts is definitely worthwhile. Though buying carded accounts may make sense to some people as you can get the game way cheaper with no risk, buying stolen accounts only makes sense to players in certain communities.
The idea of paying money for an account that gets taken back sounds weird to the average person, but some people don’t need for an account to last very long. Account marketplaces tend to be fueled by the cheating community in games, who don’t need accounts for very long as they are going to be banned either way. Even if the account is recovered, the original owner will still have a permanent ban on their record and not be able to play the game or access items that they owned. As long as people are cheating and getting banned in video games, they will need new accounts. The accounts aren’t required to last long, and are preferably cheaper so money can be saved when buying large amounts. Though it may seem like a small community, hundreds of thousands of people are registered on cheating websites, and the majority of those people are willing to pay to continue in their ways. It may seem like cheaters and scammers are the ones who the marketplaces support and companies as well as players are the ones who take the fall in return, but there is a third party which profits far more than anyone else.
The one group that surprisingly hasn’t been mentioned is the game platform itself. Seeing as games are being sold for cheaper prices and accounts are being stolen, it seems obvious that platforms such as Steam and Epic Games where the games are actually sold would be losing money. The sad truth is that these platforms benefit the most off of both account marketplaces and key selling accounts. Though games are bought and refunded, the company the games were bought from originally bought them from the game platform, which means that the game company themselves doesn’t lose any money from the transaction. This already causes a major issue, as due to making profit, it’s harder to justify companies to help stop the current problem. The main community that purchases these accounts also can benefit the company.
Having your game filled with cheaters that have easy access to accounts does seem like an issue for the company creating the games. This, yet again, would be a false assumption. By banning either a cheater or a legitimate player, there is a high chance that the player will buy the game a second time, netting the company more money. In March of 2019, over 1.5 million players were banned from games on steam, and the very next month, another 1.5 million were banned. Assuming the game they were banned off had been sold for as little as 10 dollars, Valve just made 15 million dollars because of cheaters being banned. Assuming these cheaters bought another copy of the game after being banned, that’s another 15 million that Valve gains due to players cheating in their games. If a legitimate player is banned due to a cheater using their account, chances are they will rebuy the game to play it again, which gives Valve money off the fact that the account was hijacked. Some players also have in-game items which are worth real money, and these players have been banned from games at times. All that money is instantly locked in the account, never to be seen again, yet Valve still has all the money from those items originally being bought.
Another company that has a large amount of accounts stolen or banned is Epic Games. Hundreds of thousands of accounts are stolen and sold, most containing in-game skins worth a decent amount of money, yet the company itself loses no money from the account switching owners. An even bigger issue is that some accounts still have cards linked to them, and if fraudulent purchases are made, the money goes to Epic Games themselves. Having an account stolen from you can lose you a major amount of money, even if you end up getting it back, and as a result it’s important to be cautious regarding your account.
It’s basically common knowledge not to give out your login, but there are many other ways that people may attempt to access your login. Certain sites related to items or servers for Steam games require you to log in with your Steam account, luckily, it redirects you to Steam to log in and doesn’t actually show your information to the site in question. However, many sites have popped up recently that show you a fake version of the site. Some sites will try redirecting you to a seperate domain which is meant to look like the Steam site, and some will show a fake tab opening, which looks like your browser opened a tab with the correct domain, but is actually a part of the website. These sites will also prompt for your two-factor authentication code, which if you enter, will disable two-factor on your account and change the information on it.
Many people also use malware to steal accounts, which can mostly be avoided by not downloading suspicious files and by having a decent antivirus. Even though it may seem to be easy to avoid, millions of accounts have been stolen and entered the account marketplaces this way, and the approaches by scammers are always getting better, so it’s important to exercise caution. Though there are rather negative practices on these sites, some people still find it worth it to buy accounts.
Account marketplaces typically use fraud and other illegitimate methods to acquire accounts and sell them as a way to essentially launder money, but for some people it’s still worth buying the accounts. Though using somebody else’s account that was stolen doesn’t make sense for the majority of people, having an account that never was anybody else’s with a game you want on it is definitely worth it for the cheaper price. If you truly want to buy an account of sites like this then I can’t stop you, but it’s important to know you are supporting a practice that screws over players and small companies while benefiting scammers, cheaters, and the mega corporations that everybody hates.