In case you missed it, the video games industry has exploded and shows no sign of stopping. Millions of pandemic stay-at-home hours have tapped into online games and shared play. It’s not just for teens anymore. Predictably, an increase in gamer accounts has triggered more hacks of game accounts.
Gamers don’t use their real names during play. Instead, players utilize avatar names as IDs. Some tags boast about skills. Others have meaning only the rightful owner understands. It could be a nickname like Echo145 or Hazard3hands. Think of this as the system by which online multi-player games like HALO or Call of Duty 4 reveal the current players without disclosing their actual identities.
If your account isn’t 100% secure, someone else could swoop in and grab your gamer tag along with all the data and coins linked to it. This is the worst hack most players have ever experienced—a major nightmare. Some struggle for months or years trying to undo the damage or claw back their player ID.
Tags are needed to access your account, cryptocurrency, skins you’ve earned or purchased, friend lists and much more. Once a hacker gains access to your account, your password is changed, and control of your online identity now resides with someone else. While many instances of tag theft are pranks or trolling, others bring ransom demands. That kind of blackmail can lead to numerous headaches or even danger for the innocent party.
Damage Can Be Major
Video game e-sports has become a legitimate career in recent years. Ziprecruiter.com reports the average commercial player earns around $52,000 a year. Some gamers attain valuable reputations in the field of professional gameplay. The best rake in unbelievable incomes is through their work; one Danish man whose gamer tag is N0tail has earned nearly $7 million playing games. The damage a stolen gamer tag creates can be sizeable. At times, a star influencer’s career can derail for a time.
Other victims report anger or depression after a loss of their gaming identity. Some feel violated.
“Playing video games is something my son and I enjoy doing together. Getting the achievements shows him what we can accomplish when we work together,” one user wrote on a games forum way back in 2004. “We were trying to reach 100,000, and we were only a few months away. Now we lost our gamertag, friends list, achievement points, downloads, and game saves since they are all linked to the gamertag. Hopefully, something can be done to reverse the situation.”
The odds are not favorable when seeking corporate assistance to restore your tag. The company or its enforcement team may deactivate your stolen gamer identity signature, but that’s a far cry from restoring all you’ve lost.
The Theft Process
There are several ways your gamer account(s) might be compromised. Password reuse is on the list. Billions of stolen credential pairs are sold or traded on the Dark Web. Buyers try using your recycled passwords and email addresses to breach password-protected accounts. Once in, it’s easy to change passwords, email addresses and security question details.
Perhaps you’ve done nothing wrong. You didn’t share your email address, passcode or other details needed to breach your account. The root cause might be a coding error that opens a door for would-be intruders. Then there’s the method of tricking players into visiting tainted websites, which are coded to steal their personal info.
In early 2019, Epic Games’ Fortnite blockbuster game was hit with bad news. U.S. security researchers found bugs in the game that allowed an intruder to view accounts for any player registered. All of them.
Last November, a researcher detected a coding vulnerability on enforcement.xbox.com. Talk about irony! That’s the group that’s supposed to stop abuses. In January 2020, Microsoft launched its first Bug Bounty plan for X-Box. Security researchers report significant code problems to earn cash bonuses.
Tag thefts aren’t all the same. Usage comes into play in determining whether a crime has occurred. Is it used entirely for recreational play, or are you an influencer or professional player? If the theft impacts your ability to produce income, it could damage your reputation, bank account and economic stability. Such thefts could lead to criminal charges.
If you play online for a living, register your digital tag as a trademark or artist’s name. That will stop others from using your brand, but it won’t guarantee you will ever regain control of the stolen tag.
Most of us aren’t pro players, however. Here are some proactive steps you should take ASAP:
- First, set up 2FA (two-factor authorization) on gaming platforms like Steam or Blizzard’s Battle.net that offer it. This can stop a thief cold.
- Avoid gaming on public Wi-Fi. It’s too risky.
- If you’re hacked, act fast. The sooner you attempt to recover your account, the more likely you’ll succeed. Unfortunately, thieves also strike rapidly; if they alter both your account’s password and email address, you are probably too late.
- Players hit with issues on an X-Box Live account can get documents that guide you through the steps to (hopefully) recover your gamer tag password or check for suspicious activity.
- The Microsoft-owned gaming company wants users to report any hacks they witness directly to X-Box Enforcement through the platform’s console unit.
- Other companies, including Epic Games, also provide online advice to attempt recovery of your gamer ID.
While this is all great, it doesn’t address the issue of how to recover your gamer ID if someone completely locks you out and the game maker takes a hands-off approach. As one frustrated user summed it up, “There are millions of players and paying customers that still deserve at minimum, a safe gaming environment in addition to security of their personal accounts.”
IDShield is a product of Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc. d/b/a LegalShield (“LegalShield”). LegalShield provides access to identity theft protection and restoration services. For complete terms, coverage, and conditions, please see an identity theft plan. All Licensed Private Investigators are licensed in the state of Oklahoma. This is meant to provide general information and is not intended to provide legal advice, render an opinion, or provide any specific recommendations.