In the coming months, there are stong warnings that cybercrime and money laundering in online games – such as World of Warcraft – will be a growing concern.
As regulators continue to implement more requirements and guidelines to ensure financial institutions squash
felonious trading, criminals are seeking out alternatives ways to manoeuvre their illegal activity.
These sites are the perfect playground for money-launderers because they permit a huge volume of communication without any physical contact. Criminals can send virtual credit discreetly to other players in other countries, where it’s then transferred into real money.
It’s not just gaming sites that are being taken advantage of, though. Online gambling is also growing consistently year upon year. Traditional offline money-laundering methods, such as buying winning tickets from legitimate players or using casino chips as currency for criminal transactions, have been digitised and are harder to monitor.
The huge growth of virtual gaming and online gambling on new devices is increasing ease and accessibility to the global marketplace for money-launderers.
“Criminals are very creative. Not only do they target online casinos and poker websites, but they have graduated to new businesses like the booming sports betting, and fantasy football websites,” explains Frank Holzenthal, FICO TONBELLER’s Compliance Consultant.
“They have also found that online role-playing games provide an easy way for criminals to launder money through virtual currencies. Games like Second Life and World of Warcraft can be used to move money as these games use credits that players can exchange for real money. By using the virtual currency systems, criminals can send virtual money to associates in another country, which can then be transferred into real money.”
The market volume of online gaming in North America alone was estimated by Ibisworld to be around $41 billion US dollars in 2015, tripling in size since 2005. Globally, the figure is estimated to be a staggering $274 billion, so the industry is a considerable draw for cyber-criminals. This is an area of growing concern and, in order to prevent the growth of money laundering in this area, anti-money-laundering forces need to focus on online gambling and gaming.