Image by Tarn Nguyen

As a gamer, did you spend more time online during the pandemic and since? If you answered, “Yes”, you are in the majority. 

Online gaming has been part of our lives for several decades. According to several sources, there will be around 820 million online gamers by 2023. 

That’s an astonishing 26% increase over 2018!

However, the other statistic that has shot up in our increasingly online world is cybercrime. 

As gamers, we are vulnerable to attacks, and 12% of gamers have their ID stolen, with those in the US most at risk.

So, what can you do to avoid becoming one of those identity theft victims?

#1. Only buy games from official sources

When shopping for or buying games, restrict your purchases and downloads to official developer sites or reputable platforms such as GOG or Steam. 

It’s always tempting to go for a big discount or a ‘free’ game. Unfortunately, the adage is true: If it looks too good to be true it probably is

Using pirated games or ones from illegitimate sites leaves you open to ID theft. 

Cybercriminals may be using the site to gather payment and personal information or as a backdoor into your device/s. Of course, pirated games also come with another danger: 

  • Severe penalties;
  • Suspension of your account;
  • Or your console being blocked.

The same is true for ‘cheats’ to help you make progress in games. 

An even bigger alarm bell should ring if it’s a “free” cheat or free giveaway. Again, this is both a direct security risk and can compromise your gaming account or even get you banned.

#2. Use a secure connection

Any online activity needs to be done securely, and gaming – downloading and playing – is no different. Here’s how you can secure the connection:

  • If you use an Android-based operating system for apps, mobile games, and middleware, you should investigate a VPN APK download. Using a VPN on a PC is an excellent way to keep your location secret as it hides your IP address. It also encrypts data.
  • If you game on an Xbox, PlayStation, or another type of console a good option is to set it up via your router. This will result in changed/hidden IP addresses for all your gaming devices.

A traditional VPN or VPN APK will afford you protection and make it much tougher for hackers to track and attack you.

#3. Protect your accounts

There are several aspects to this crucial activity so that you guard your personal data and shield yourself from hackers and identity theft.

  • Manage your passwords. Passwords are a crucial part of online security regardless of the activity. As a gamer, it’s essential that you use a different password for each account. They should also be strong, i.e., hard to guess. A combination of alpha, numeric, and special characters is advised. If remembering passwords is too much, use a password manager or storage system. Remember to reset passwords regularly, too, especially if you suspect an account may have been hacked!
  • Set up multiple email addresses. It is a smart move to keep shopping, banking, gaming, and other emails separate. That way if one email account has been compromised the others will remain safe as the details are not linked.
  • Close your account completely if you stop playing a game or leave a gaming community. Simply shut it down. Idle gaming accounts are easy prey for hackers who can use them to obtain data. If you are an MMO player who wants to sell or trade a character or account, ensure you are not also handing over any personal information at the same time.

These tips may seem time-consuming but being hacked and having your ID stolen is far worse.

#4. Don’t release personal information

It can be tempting to give information to online friends and gaming allies. 

Even if your trust in another player is well founded or you know them personally, you do not know who else is watching. So, do not provide your real name or other bits of information that can be stolen and misused. Never answer personal questions that are not game related.

If you have children who are also gamers, they need to be made aware that they should not share personal information or talk about their lives and why:

  • Names;
  • Ages;
  • Birthdays;
  • Addresses;
  • And the name of their school are all on the forbidden list.

#5. Only use one card or bank account

Just as email addresses should be kept separate, so should credit or debit cards. 

A recommended option is a separate bank account linked to a debit card only. You can just put enough money into the account to meet gaming needs. That way, if your account is hacked, they will not get much or be able to access your other accounts.

As one does with any account, if you monitor your accounts regularly, you will pick up on any issues fast and report the theft or fraud to your bank or financial institution immediately.

Final thoughts

Gaming should be about fun, learning, camaraderie, and achievement. 

By protecting yourself online by only using legitimate games and a secure connection, and protecting your gaming and financial accounts, you can go a long way to ensuring that your personal data and ID remain safe.

Enjoy gaming and stay safe!