Reports of teenagers in the EU selling stolen accounts in “Fortnite” in a practice called “cracking” surfaced Thursday from the BBC.
Minors as young as 14 are netting anywhere from 25 pence (about $0.32) to “hundreds of pounds” per account sold, according to the BBC.
Though the Battle Royale mode of “Fortnite” is completely free-to-play, there are extra, cosmetic items players can purchase in the game to change the appearance of their character. As a result, accounts with extras do have some value.
Teens are hacking accounts by finding databases of usernames and passwords from the game illegally published online, sourced via data breaches, and then accessing the accounts. By accessing the accounts and changing information, the original users are then unable to access their own account, as it requires verification via email, which the hacker can change.
One 14-year-old hacker from the UK reported to the BBC that he made £1,500 (about $1,900) in a few weeks despite knowing that what he was doing was illegal. The teen looked through more than 1,000 accounts in a single “‘Fortnite’ cracking” session.
“It’s lucky dip basically, you either get a good account or you don’t,” the teen told the news source. “People like the rarity of the ‘skins’ and it’s about the look of them and showing off to friends.”
Others are making even more money. One 17-year-old Slovene reports making £16,000 in a period of seven months.
If caught, offenders could receive up to a two-year prison sentence, according to the BBC.
The National Crime Agency’s Ethan Thomas commented on the troublesome practice.
“What we’d like…,” Thomas told the BBC. “Is the gaming industry engaging more with law enforcement and looking at early intervention messaging on their platforms to divert [youngsters] on to a more ethical and legal path.”
Epic Games recommends adding two-factor authentication to protect your “Fortnite” account. Although this is not required, players do receive in-game rewards in both free-to-play Battle Royale and the paid campaign, Save the World.
“Your account security is our top priority!” stated a post from Epic published in August. “Protect your account by enabling 2FA. As a reward for protecting your account, you’ll unlock the Boogiedown Emote in ‘Fortnite Battle Royale’.”
Players who have Save the World will also receive 50 Armory Slots, 10 Backpack Slots, and a Legendary Troll Stash Llama.
For instructions on how to enable this extra security measure, see this article from Epic.
Epic Games did not respond to Variety’s request for comment, as its office is currently closed for the holiday season.