How Smart Developers Prevent User Fraud, Part 1

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There once was an online game that had no fraud issues.

We think. We hope. (We dream.)

The reality is that most games face some level of online abuse, and it takes considerable time and resources to make sure that prevention and management of fraud is effective.

Games and virtual currency attract fraudulent, exploitative or malicious opportunists looking to hack their way to cash or premium content at every turn. It’s the nature of any industry to attract some rogue users, but the game payments industry is especially impacted.

Smart Developers Prevent Fraud

These abusers often prey on smaller developers who may not have a robust fraud prevention process in place to ward off the attacks. Our team manages this fraud prevention for hundreds of game publisher clients, so we thought it’d be helpful to suggest a few ways that game and app developers can deter some of this abuse from happening, often by using fairly straightforward design decisions.

This post will come to you in two parts. In this post we’ll discuss game design decisions that can help you prevent fraud. In the next post, we’ll dig into specific activities you can monitor to reduce your exposure to fraud.

Premium Currency Restrictions

The best way to prevent virtual currency abuse is to restrict or eliminate the ability to transfer premium currency (or goods bought with that currency) outside of your game or app.

Placing restrictions on the options players have with regards to in-app currencies will help curb loss of revenue and the notorious “gold farming” we see in many online games today.

This can also affect your bottom line. Premium currencies should only be allowed to purchase items that trigger vanity or personal gain – keep these purchases account-bound.

Allowing users to trade on these premium items opens the door to increased purchase fraud and chargeback rates as malicious users will often purchase large amounts of premium currency, cash it in for items to resell at a profit, and then chargeback the original purchases to you. Users that have the ability to trade, resell and or distribute premium currencies can end up disturbing the natural flow of a game economy.

Take away: Control your premium currencies well and your game economies will run smoother.

Multiple Accounts/Multiple IP Addresses

For the same reasons that controlling your currency is important, preventing multiple account creation is another way to significantly reduce incentives to game the system (pardon the pun). Mass account creation is a very common form of game economy abuse, usually involving efforts to duplicate bonuses, promos, or time sinks.

It’s worth noting that removing transfer capabilities (mentioned above) will also disincentivize many forms of abuse that are related to multiple account holding.

Mass account holding also reduces the abuser’s risk of getting suspended or banned from a game, as losing one account simply means moving on to another (and so on).

If game dynamics permit, an ideal way of mitigating this type of abuse is to restrict users to one account per person, household, or IP. Different game dynamics have different needs; a game that a family shares may necessitate more than one account per household, for instance. In any case, thoughtfully limited account measures can go a long way to managing your fraud challenges.

Take away: Fraudsters love owning lots of accounts, so make it hard for that to happen.

Got tips of your own?

We’re always looking to hear what developers think are the best ways of minimizing micro-transactions fraud, so what are yours? Leave them in the comments or tweet them to us at @superrewards!

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series on fraud, coming next Monday!

Photo courtesy of epSos.de via Flickr

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