Online poker has become a global phenomenon as evidenced by its massive worldwide growth and popularity and of course the financial gains associated with the game. Like any other multi-billion dollar industry, it attracts an interest from hackers who are interested in gaining access to poker accounts where you may find very impressive sums of money.
Fraud related to online poker accounts has become an increasing problem worldwide where incidents of fraud to unsuspecting users have occurred. In particular, incidents of fraud occur where access to the poker accounts is gained by stealing login information to the accounts. The poker accounts are then emptied through the participation in heads up games where the unexpected victim loses “intentionally” in favour of another poker player, usually an account involving the hacker himself. The full winnings are then immediately withdrawn and the account of the hacker is closed.
Users may fall victim to such cyber criminals not only because of security holes in the poker room, but because they are not careful themselves.
The most commonly used techniques are those of phishing and identity theft, both in obtaining data to access to the poker account. The fraud is carried out through phishing emails that appear to “apparently” be sent from the poker room with which the player has an account, but in reality was sent by organizations that deal in anything but poker. These emails are designed to induce the recipient to click on the link in the mail and authenticate with your password on a page that reproduces the exact layout of the poker room but in reality has been created for the sole purpose to “capture” user names and passwords when you fill in the appropriate fields. Of course, in such cases, because the hackers will send out mass emails, they will likely target the most popular poker rooms where the likelihood is high of someone having an account.
Often, the perpetrator may be someone close to the victim. It could be someone who knows enough intimate details about them to gain access to their account.
The cyber-criminals are very skilled, we could see the landing page of some phishing emails circulating recently and I must admit that they seemed truly authentic and reproduced almost exactly to the site intended to imitate. We stress the “almost” because, fortunately, there are some things you can do to avoid being scammed:
– First, always check the reliability of the sender and the message content. In the text of the message you can sometimes detect spelling errors and incorrect sentences that can be warning sign.
– Appearance is important to the destination URL of the link or button shown in the message. If the URL contains funny characters (eg @), contains a subdomain or points back to a different domain from the poker room to which you are enrolled, it is highly likely that this is a phishing scam;
– Also be wary of the page that opens after you click on the link (the landing page). If the address bar disappears or has an address that does not meet the rules above, it is best to avoid putting sensitive data;
– Finally, a very important recommendation is: when in doubt, call the support number for the poker room to see if the message you received is legitimate and if the address that appears is correct.
Identity theft occurs under different scenarios and can sometimes be the result of gathering information about the victim through several different sources.
To minimize the risk of this happening, you should avoid a number of things, such as:
– Saving access data on your PC or mobile phone address book in case of removal of these can alert the thief to find passwords and access to the account of the game;
– Leaving the email reminder containing your user name or password to your poker account in your email inbox;
– Do not underestimate the possibility of someone gaining access by profiling you via various sources of information including info that is visible on social networking sites like your place and date of birth;
– Be careful when downloading software from an unfamiliar source. Such software can often hide Trojans, programs running in the background that are able to record and send their creator any keystrokes done on the PC;
– Also, be careful not to have same or similar login details through various websites. If one is compromised, the other could also potentially be at risk.
– Finally, use plain old common sense.
In any case, it’s a good idea to make regular spot checks on your poker accounts and also make notes before and after a game session of how much money is in your account to help you notice if there are suspicious movements in your balance. Everyone should have antivirus software installed to protect from spam and Trojans. Also, many poker players are known to log in from other locations such as a friend’s house or school or internet cafe. Make sure not to store login details on the computer being used.
Of course, the poker rooms cannot stand by idly either, they should have security procedures in place for the safety and protection of their users, much like the banks have done and continue to do.
If poker players follow some of our recommendations, they can help protect themselves from cyber-thiefs who continually invent new forms of fraud.