It sounds like one kid in Minnesota is about to lose their video game privileges for the remainder of their childhood.
Fortnite is video game phenomenon that is both free to play and a potential money pit. Available on Xbox, Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4 and PC, there are versions of the game that are free to download and play but which offer microtransactions via the in-game 'V-Bucks' currency. You need the V-Bucks to buy fun dance moves and player customizations, and you need actual money to buy V-Bucks.
Enter Krista Kneeland-Peason, who noticed that her 8-year-old son had started spending 'a ton' of money to buy the V-Bucks. She ended the spending and reduced his playtime but noticed the lights on in his bedroom past his bedtime and went in to investigate, only to find two of her purses upturned. Knowing exactly where he would have spent ill-gotten gains, she checked messages on the game to find that someone in North Carolina had offered the boy money in exchange for photos of her credit cards and driver's license.
"I really didn't want to do it," her son Charlie said. "They just kept on telling me to and then I didn't want them to get mad at me, so I just did it."
"It makes me really nervous," Kneeland-Pearson told KHOU. "What is going to happen with all of my information? On top of that, how scary it is that this guy was able to talk to Charlie into doing something behind my back?"
This is apparently a problem persistent enough in games like Fortnite to have warranted an official response from its creator Epic Games.
Say NO to scams!— Fortnite (@FortniteGame) May 25, 2018
Beware of scam sites offering free or discounted V-Bucks. The only official websites for Fortnite are https://t.co/8CxczhrZwk and https://t.co/zxorPaoiJb.
For more information of Account Security: https://t.co/oF57QdfDLH pic.twitter.com/5oTKougmuq
In Krista's case, the police don't feel confident that they can prosecute. "Unless somebody takes steps to do something with that information, it isn't a crime to possess it," said Lieutenant Bill Gerl. "You just have to educate your kids and let them know that you should never be giving a stranger information about yourself online."
“In these games there’s nothing that is free,” Jens Monrad, global threat analyst at FireEye told the Independent. “What I mean by that is that any sort of offer where you can participate and get free digital currencies, either by handing out details about your account or by visiting specific websites, that’s typically fraud.”
Fortnite players are becoming wise to the issue.