How the latest freemium game craze has created multiple fraud scams within a fraud.

“Fortnite Battle Royale is the completely free 100-player PvP mode in Fortnite” trumpets Microsoft marketers. So, if something is “completely free” then one should expect not to pay anything. Assuming this to be true, then how can something pitched as “free” and “free to play” generate as much as $300 million per month? That is the amount that the freemium game “Fortnite” has been making as of January 2018. While there is a paid version, most of its revenue comes from the well touted “free” version. It is currently the number one online video game taking the world by storm. With more than 125 million players, children, teens, adults, and even celebrities have been lured into it. The game’s highly addictive nature has led to it being banned from some schools. Many working professionals have also reported extensive losses of productivity because of this so-called “free” product.

In FP101, we learn about the deep psychology behind freemium game addictions and how it works. While the game is heavily defended in the media (maybe because most of their writers are Fornite addicts themselves) people should be aware that these addictions are planned and deliberate. All for profit. Anonymous game developers have explained how targeted and strategic these games are in engaging with their victims. Once people get hooked as per the design, they are more prone to make in-app purchases to enhance their gaming experience. All of this is for no real reward. In Fortnite, the goal is to be the last player standing. The one who survives wins…(drumroll, please)…an umbrella—in the virtual world. This is how these freemium frauds work. You win no real reward except bragging rights. And yet, some people rack up hundreds of dollars in “micro transactions” which give their characters special battle gear.

13-year-old Jake was one of these victims. He is said to have spent over $300 of his own money toward in-app purchases for the game. That’s a lot of money for a child who has no concept of how they are being manipulated. To make matters worse, Jake ended up being scammed by a Fortnite fraudster. The game is designed for interaction with other players and gamers can talk to each other (bring family and friends). Jake was impressed by the amount of “skins” another player had accumulated. The player said he would help the teen if he gave him his login details. Jake provided the information, but he didn’t receive the benefit he expected. Instead, the scammer locked him out of his account and killed off his player. The damage to this child will only manifest itself over his lifetime. Ask any counselor about this—it’s ugly!

However, Jake is just one of millions to suffer Fortnite fraud. Parents around the world have been shocked by some bizarre incidents coming out of this “game”. Such reports include children being solicited for parents’ banking information and players following fake links in pursuit of “free V-Bucks,” which is the in-game currency. No matter the method, it is clear that Fortnite is another mass fraud systemic targeting children of any age.

In the end, any level of engagement with Fortnite is going to cost time, energy, and lots of cash. So parents need to beware of the double whammy fraud here: the subtle freemium fraud addiction model and the predatory online scammers who follow and exploit randomly. The fact that even our children are victims does not seem to be news anymore. The deep psychology used in such games for the purposes of fraud is well known and continues to grow unabated. When are our lawmakers going to wake up to these real and present dangers of scientifically designed and deeply addictive frauds such as these? Who’s going to take a stand or is it too late already?

TW

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