3Mobsters Are Using Games to Order Hits and Launder Money
Advancements like voice and text chatting within video games have allowed players to exchange maternal insults with people from all over the world. It's not all positive, though: If you're not careful about who you talk to, you may run into a criminal ordering a real-life murder. Seriously.
And if you don't stop slurping Mountain Dew so close to the mic, that murder may be yours.
According to journalist Misha Glenny, who has written for the BBC and The Guardian, Russian mobsters and South American drug cartels are using online games to carry out illegal activities such as money laundering right under our noses. As we alluded to above, every MMO has some form of internal currency: In World of Warcraft, it's gold; in Second Life, it's the Linden; and in Knights of the Old Republic, it's buyer's remorse. Countless transactions are carried out within these games every day and it would be impossible to monitor them all, a fact that gangs use to their advantage.
How? By using online games to launder and transfer funds around the world. Glenny's investigation uncovered the fact that Russian mobsters and Colombian drug lords are using dirty money to buy, for example, World of Warcraft gold and then transferring that gold to a player in another country. Then all the recipient has to do is convert the gold back into U.S. dollars and the transaction is complete. Some crooks hire entire tech teams and use hundreds of accounts, all dedicated to successfully moving cash through online games.
"Sir, you'll have the cash as soon as the PS3 finishes updating."
But it gets worse: According to leaked documents from U.S. agencies, international gangs are also using the voice chatting features in consoles like the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 to talk with each other and even order murders overseas. The documents specifically mention that "MS-13 members may have used this communications tactic to order at least one murder ... as well as the murder of a possible witness." It's unclear whether the hits were carried out with katanas and jet packs.
Or by an X-Files team of supervillains.
This whole thing may sound alarmist as shit, but when you think about it, it makes sense: These days, phone calls, emails, and text messages can be easily monitored, but no one's paying attention to the verbal exchanges that are going on within video games (mostly because they can barely be considered verbal). Honestly, why wouldn't gangsters use online games to communicate? Other than the fact that they might run into people who are even more devious than themselves, which brings us to ...
2Scammers Pull Off Massive Ponzi Scheme Inside Sci-Fi Game
Some scammers con people out of $32,000 and get two years in prison. "Eddie Lampert" and "Mordor Exuel" stole over $50,000 from their investors and got nothing ... well, except $50,000. The only reason they got away with it was because they did it within the game EVE Online -- in other words, they found a loophole that allowed them to rip people off in a completely legal, totally shameless, and extremely nerdy way.
For a game that is ostensibly about flying spaceships around an untamed virtual universe, an inexplicable amount of EVE Online's playtime has you living the exciting life of a space accountant. Unlike other MMOs, your power is determined not just by how many hours you've spent killing things, but also by how much money you've saved up. Players have different ways of accumulating funds: some mine, some invest in the game's economy ... and some pull off massive, thousand-dollar Ponzi schemes.
"No, just hear me out -- it's totally legit. First, we get a spaceship ..."
In 2011, Lampert and Exuel hatched a plan that would have gained them the admiration of both Bernie Madoff and Emperor Palpatine. They chartered a company in the game called Phaser Inc. and started to attract investors with a simple promise: 5 percent returns on any investment in only a week's time. If that sounds too good to be true, that's because it was: Like all Ponzi schemes, they just used their clients' money to pay other clients, building positive word of mouth despite being completely full of crap.
Before too long, they were a major force in the EVE economy and were handling hundreds of transactions a day. And then, after eight months of that, they said, "OK, that's enough," and posted this image to their website:
At this point, two giant hands came from each side and formed a cosmic Goatse.
Phaser Inc. told its 4,000 investors that their money was gone: "You've invested it, got a chance on some profit, but it turned out not to be the best choice you've ever made." Lampert and Exuel had pocketed a trillion ISK (the game's currency), or approximately $52,000. And, worst of all, there was nothing anyone could do about it, because shady dealings like these aren't forbidden by the game's rules. Not even on this scale.
While the scammers said that they planned to use the money to "play EVE for a very, very, very long time," all they'd have to do is get in touch with some of the schmucks who pay gold farmers and they could transform those virtual bucks into actual money. In fact, the only reason they haven't done it is probably because someone could find out who they are and then they'd have 4,000 people lining up to kick them in the dick.
"They passed out again. Someone make a run for more smelling salts."