Russians Figure Out How to Launder Money Using Team Fortress 2 Keys
I’d buy that for a dollar…using someone else’s credit card
Over at the Steamrep forums, user base64 uncovered a very strange group of what seems to be Russians purchasing keys to open item boxes in TF2. Apparently, it is believed that the Russian groups involved are purchasing large amounts of keys with illigetimate credit cards and essentially using TF2's Earbud market to launder the money.
Normally you could just call up the standard package of illegitimate credit card use and protection but, because the keys for boxes in TF2 are a virtual item, the money is returned but the product is not. Valve can’t really take the keys back, or doesn't because it isn't an "actual good." So, the bank retracts the charge and the virtual items remain in circulation. The implications here are a sort of “artificial” market manipulation scheme that may have finally become noticeable.
Using fraudulent credit cards, these Russian users buy thousands of keys that they then trade for Apple earbuds (a rare item in Team Fortress). This then allows those Russians to sell the earbuds for higher prices which essentially launders their money for them.
So, I don’t know if you know this or not but in Team Fortress 2, you can wear different hats. Every so often, Steam offers a special that usually results in a new hat. You could log in during Halloween and get a pumpkin to wear on your favorite TF2 class’ head. Or, you could log in right after Steam managed to bring Steam to Mac to get a special pair of earbuds.
These earbuds (iPod’s icon) are now a hot commodity and pretty much go for around 30bux or so though they are often traded for keys to various chests that players find as they play TF2. Inside these chests there could be a whole mess of stuff and those things are also tradable.
As this just happened or was noticed this morning, it will be interesting to see if Valve responds.