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Gamer Safety Week and tips to keep you safe online

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The Merchant Risk Council has kicked off Gamer Safety Week through their affiliated Gamer Safety Alliance, a cross-company initiative designed to help curb the fraud epidemic that has plagued many online gaming communities.

The GSA is focusing their event on account security and what gamers can do to avoid scams and other fraudulent attacks that can have financial repercussions. They've shared a few tips for keeping yourself secure while you're playing.

  • Add security proofs to your online accounts such as your phone number or a secondary email address, especially if you're using an email address as your username for a game.
  • Don't make your username the same as your email address (or your password for that matter).
  • Consider having multiple email addresses with separate groupings, such as one for gaming, one for shopping, and one for banking.

These are all excellent suggestions. From personal experience with fellow gamers you also need to be diligent with what information you give out in game. Most developers and publishers will never ask you for your username or password, so you should never give out your credentials to anyone within a game, even if they claim to be an administrator or moderator.

Furthermore phishing attempts are common in online games. This is a scam in which the person attempting to rip you off will try to get you to willingly give out your account details. This can be done through a link in an email or through fake websites that will prompt you for info. A common trick with this is to present a link that looks like a legitimate company link that will actually lead you somewhere else. This is accomplished by changing the URL ever so slightly. Make sure to check links that you click on to see if they are completely correct. If you have any questions about the authenticity of things you should contact the developer through their website or through an in-game option.

If you're interested in trading items you've obtained while playing a game through Steam there are also considerations. Many Steam games like DOTA 2 or Team Fortress 2 have thriving trade communities online where items are either swapped or purchased for real money. This can be a perilous endeavor, especially since Steam itself is often not involved in these transactions. SteamRep, a non-profit site that that gathers scamming reports from prominent trading communities is a good option. You can search Steam users on here who you're considering trading with and see if they've been flagged for bad behavior elsewhere.

Another good resource can be to check out Reddit and look for a relevant subreddit dedicated to trading. Often these will have how-to sections to help you avoid scams. For instance, this thread deals with how to spot and avoid common scams in DOTA 2 trading. Looking up the game you're interested in trading items for and familiarizing yourself with common practices and scams will help protect you.

If you're looking for a less risky way to get those fancy items you've been looking at you can also utilize the Community Market feature on Steam. In this section you can sell and purchase items you've acquired in Steam games securely with other users. Any funds you gain from selling items will go to your wallet and can be used towards anything you can buy on Steam.

So in honor of Gamer Safety Week go out there and make some changes, unless of course you want your digital life to become full of very real problems. Good luck!

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