Most MMO game operators ban the sale of in-game currency for real-world dollars. But that hasn’t stopped gold farming from flourishing into a full-fledged underground economy.

A Telecoms.com article entitled “Killing Cash” addresses the ways in which virtual currency may be pushing old fashioned cash out of circulation altogether. One point is the prevalence of gold farming, which, according to a 2011 report by the World Bank’s InfoDev unit in 2011, an estimated 75% of all virtual goods sales involve gold farmers.

“The vast majority of gold farms are based in developing countries like China, and the phenomenon has attracted the same kind of publicity as sweat shops, with imagery of banks of computers staffed by ill-paid workers who repeat the same in-game tasks in World of Warcraft for hours at a time to earn in game currency. These funds are then traded on illicit exchanges for real world money. The value comes from games players who support the system as an easy way to boost their in-game funds.”

Numerous guides are available online to help readers learn how to gold farm more effectively, whether you’re a casual gamer or part of an organized crime ring. A press release from Ereviewguide.com touts their gold farming guide, which warns that “there is really not much money to be made by players who play the conventional way or who play the game purely for enjoyment,” despite the promises of “e-book scams, scam online guides and other digital forms of snake oil that try to get would-be players excited about online game gold farming as a way of making money online.” Nevertheless, Ereviewguide.com offers “tips and strategies to maximize gold farming efficiency.”

Game operators lose profits due to forced labor gold farming, and while they certainly want to stem their losses, they also have a humanitarian responsibility to the victims of this crime.

iovation’s ReputationManager 360 is a proven service that helps protect MMOs against chargebacks, virtual asset theft, gold farming, code hacking, and account takeovers. The service identifies devices being used to play and examines their history and reputation as they are interacting with the game – setting off alerts that could relate to velocity triggers, geolocation, device anomalies, past gold farming abuse, financial fraud, chat abuse, and more.

For years, leading game publishers have prevented game abuse and ensured a safe and fun experience for players with the help of iovation’s device reputation service. These publishers (along with iovation’s network of more than 2,000 fraud analysts from other online businesses) share information, trends, and best practices with iovation and with each other in order to stay one step ahead of cheaters and criminals.

Robert Siciliano, personal security and identity theft expert contributor to iovation, discusses identity theft for the National Speakers Association. (Disclosures.)</em

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