“V-bucks,” the in-game virtual value currency of the wildly popular video game, Fortnite, is reportedly being used to launder the proceeds of stolen credit cards. An investigation by The Independent reveals that discounted V-bucks are being sold in surprisingly large quantities on the dark web – the relatively hidden section of the internet only accessible using special software. Yet these purportedly ill-gotten gains are also being spread throughout the open web, albeit on a smaller scale, through advertising on well-known social media platforms.
It has been acknowledged for years that gaming currencies offer an attractive prospect to commit money laundering. Indeed, a 2013 report for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime revealed that online games were becoming increasingly popular venues for criminals to “clean” their money through “the opening of numerous different accounts on various online games to move money.” Among the most common methods was the transfer of in-game currency to associates in other countries, who would then exchange it for fiat currency.
In light of such news, we discuss the factors that determine whether in-game and in-app virtual currencies, such a V-bucks, may be subject to the nation’s traditional anti-money laundering (“AML”) rules and regulations.