'Nearly All' Counter-Strike Microtransactions Are Being Used for Money Laundering

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive players will no longer be able to trade container keys between accounts because the trade was part of a massive worldwide fraud network. Players earned cases in Counter-Strike containing weapons and cosmetic upgrades, but had to purchase the keys to open the boxes. Developer Valve runs an internal marketplace on Steam where it allowed players to trade the boxes and the keys. Valve patched the game on October 28 and explained the problem in its patch notes.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/8xw7nx/nearly-all-counter-strike-microtransactions-are-being-used-for-money-laundering

ePiC sToRe iS tRaSh, sTeAm iS sO mUcH mOrE SeCuRe


As far as I can tell, this is true of nearly every game with microtransactions. And most of the non-fraudulent transactions are people with gambling addictions. This whole thing is a bubble that’s ready to burst.

The item broker I used with TF2 mentioned on an Idle Thumbs email how people involved in these Valve digital economies would sometimes break bad and get involved in actual criminal circles.

All of the illegal activity around CS:GO crates isn’t surprising. The loot box systems that games like Overwatch use are sleazy in their own way, but Valve’s approach with TF2 and CS—items worth literally hundreds of dollars due to extreme scarcity and a player trading system—is a lightning rod for scamming and credit card fraud.

These games desperately need real federal oversight, because I can guarantee your Valves and Activisions don’t actually care how much these games are funded by criminal activity.

This headline is incorrect. Valve’s post says that “nearly all key purchases that end up being traded or sold on the marketplace are believed to be fraud-sourced” (emphasis mine). It implies later that most key purchases are used by the purchaser, and non-key microtransactions aren’t mentioned.

Can’t say I’m too surprised at the story, of course. Valve continues to try to run everything as A Market and only addressing the problems that causes when they’re too big to ignore.

I was kind of expecting this to be honest. Valve’s whole user generated economy kind of lends itself to be used for money laundering.

I’m still kind of curious about the whole trading card economy they have and how it could also be used for this kind of stuff. Not because I want to use it, but it could maybe explain some of the stuff you see on the store in general.

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I mean if you dig deeper corruption is even at the workshop submission level.

The way Valve runs user submissions that get into the game is pretty cut and dry. You get noticed and selected for inclusion, submit paperwork and it’s done. However Valve doesn’t like paperwork, who does, and that process can be lengthy so typically what happens is once you are in you are a lot more likely to get selected again in the future. This has led to groups forming that submit as a whole with the idea being if at least one of their items is selected the entire group is essentially getting contracts and more likely to individually get selected in the future.

This is particularly noticeable around The Huntsman collection. There are some great skins in there but they vary wildly in quality and all of them have the same 10 or so people attached. I know what the process involved is like after working with this dumb engine for 6+ years and know plenty of people who make skins that get into TF2 and CSGO, you don’t need 10 people touching a skin for a pistol. Not surprisingly following this none of them ever work together on a submission again.

Then there’s the entire over running of not submissions and blatant ads now on the workshop that valve is incapable of handling some how. The system they put in place earlier this year quickly turned out to be mostly false considering the day after multiple ad/bot submissions got through their manual review process and continue to do so. Comment spam is also still rampant with links to sites promising free skins.

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