Here’s How to Stay Safe While Online Gaming

Key points

  • Online gambling and sports betting can put your credit cards and bank at risk.
  • The safest payment method is a virtual credit card. Reloadable debit cards can also add a layer of security.
  • Never gamble on public wifi and use strong passwords.

Online gaming and sports betting have exploded in value, generating more than $80 billion in wagers in 2022. That’s about 440% more gaming revenue than the $14.8 billion generated by the entire Las Vegas strip last year.

Yeah, let that sink in — online betting has surpassed Las Vegas.

With a valuation of $80 billion, online betting platforms and immersive gaming casinos have painted a bright red target for cyberattackers. While we have yet to see an elaborate heist on par with Ocean’s Eleven films, online gambling companies have already had numerous data breaches and malware implantations.

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For instance, in 2021, numerous hackers broke into Chinese gambling companies and embedded links within the platform that looked legitimate and safe. When opened, however, the links released malware on the user’s computer, which was then capable of stealing private information.

Here’s the challenge for online gamers — cyberattackers know that gamers link credit cards and banks to their accounts. And they’ll continue to use clever and adaptive booby-traps that could put your sensitive information at risk.

How can you fight back to protect your information? One way is to choose only the safest payment methods and avoid those that are risky.

What’s the safest payment method for online gaming?

A virtual credit card or reloadable debit card are the safest payment methods for placing bets and gambling online.

Virtual credit cards are generated by credit card companies. The card is linked to a credit card account, but it doesn’t share the same account details, like card number, expiration date, or CVV/CVC code. Most virtual cards are available for single purchases only and will become inactive after you buy something. This is perhaps the safest way to gamble online, as a virtual card will stop hackers from stealing credit card numbers.

You need a credit card account to generate a virtual card, but not all credit card issuers provide this option. For example, Chase doesn’t, but Capital One and Citibank do.

A reloadable debit card is another way to gamble safely online. Also called “prepaid cards,” these cards carry money that you load manually. They’re not linked to a bank account, which makes them safer than debit cards, and if compromised, the attacker could only steal what’s on the card. They do come with fees, however, making them less economical than virtual credit cards.

A few payment methods I would definitely avoid:

  • Bank accounts. Never — ever — link your bank account directly to a gambling platform. Even if it’s easier to do so, you’re putting your money at risk: if a cyberattacker compromised your information, they could take funds directly out of your account.
  • Debit cards. Ditto the argument above. A debit card gives cyberattackers direct accord to your bank account.

I would also avoid using credit cards, especially if you can generate a virtual card. But if your card provider doesn’t provide virtual cards, I would use a credit card over bank accounts, debit cards, and wire transfers. Credit cards have fraud protection, and you often won’t be responsible for paying what the fraudster charged to the card. Just use your card with caution: monitor your credit card regularly and report any charges you don’t recognize.

How can you protect yourself from a cyberattack?

Even if you can’t stop hackers from accessing gambling platforms, you can protect yourself from their booby-traps. Here are a few ways to gamble safely online:

  • Don’t use public wifi when you’re gaming. You’re safer when you use your own private wifi.
  • Create strong passwords. And update them regularly.
  • Set credit card alerts. If you have to use a credit card, set text and email alerts for purchases. You’ll know immediately when the card is used and stop fraudsters from making a mess of your credit line.
  • Update software. Gambling companies are working hard to keep your information safe. But if you don’t download their newest software, you could be vulnerable to an attack.

Finally, don’t give out sensitive information online. Even if the person on the other end appears familiar, they could be an imposter. Keep your information to yourself and never accept “wire transfers” from other gamers.

Always gamble responsibly. If you need help with a gambling addiction call 1-800-GAMBLER.

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