Gold farmers play massive multiplayer online games, not for fun, but to accumulate virtual currency, or “gold,” which can then be sold to other players, despite the fact that most game operators explicitly ban the exchange of in-game currency for cash. Gold farming is so lucrative, people in China and other developing nations can support themselves by working full-time operating gold farming rings.

About.com reports “most gold farmers are from developing countries such as China and Vietnam. According to World Bank estimates, there are currently over 100,000 people working as full-time gamers in China. They toil away for 12 or more hours a day in internet cafes, abandoned warehouses, and small offices, making about 25 cents an hour, or roughly $75 a month. There are quotas in place and work performances are heavily evaluated. The workforce is dominantly made up of migrant teenagers and young adults who come to the cities looking for work. These “virtual sweatshops” resemble the thousands of toy and appliance factories that have opened in China in the past several decades to take advantage of China’s abundance of cheap labor.”

Many leading MMOs are finding it increasingly necessary to deploy a layered defense to protect against gold farming, chargebacks and increasingly, account takeovers within gaming environments.  By leveraging the power of device reputation, which looks at the computer, smart phone or tablet connecting to the games, the gaming publisher can easily connect together players working together and shut down entire rings in one sweep.  In one case, a major gaming publisher saw the marvel of Oregon-based iovation’s fraud protection service and took action against 1,000 fraudulent accounts shortly after implementing the SaaS-based service.

Robert Siciliano, personal security and identity theft expert contributor to iovation. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Mobile was Hacked! See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video. Disclosures.

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