A hack, a money laundering network and one of the most popular sites in the video game industry: it’s a surreal story that saw a new twist on Tuesday, January 4, in Turkey. At the end of a police operation, at least 40 people were arrested, suspected of having participated in a scam aimed at using the Twitch platform to launder stolen or illegally obtained funds, revealed the Daily Sabah, a daily close to the government.
On Twitch, there are several ways to support a streamer whose content you appreciate: buy a monthly subscription, give money directly on an ad hoc basis or send “bits”, a kind of virtual currency that you can pay. to someone when they are streaming a game of video games or any other activity. From a certain amount, these bits can be transformed into money by the videographer who received them.
In Turkey, Internet users saw it as a way to disguise money recovered with stolen credit cards. Streamers were approached and were offered an agreement: a certain number of bits were paid to them during their streams, then it was up to them to convert them into money and then return them to their donors, pocketing a commission in the process.
This case was made public following a major data breach suffered by Twitch. On October 6, an Internet user posted on the 4chan forum a very large number of files related to the technical architecture of the video platform and probably stolen from a computer code repository. This same user also shared a document that caused a lot of reaction: dozens of Excel tables detailing the income generated by thousands of streamers on Twitch.
Anomalies in income
In Turkey, the story did not end there, since by carefully observing the income of the country’s videographers, of Internet users have discovered a few weeks later irregularities. Some streamers, little active or little followed, had received thousands of dollars worth of bits, while others earned an abnormal share of their income on the platform with these same bits.
Reactions mounted on social media, with netizens tweeting the tagline #TemizTwitch (“Clean Up Twitch”) and calling on the platform to take action against what appeared to suggest money laundering operations.
In a message that was deleted today, a streamer known as Legoo, a member of an esports team, admitted at the end of October to have participated in this system, after being approached by “By a friend to whom [il] do[ait] confidence “. “Later, when I realized that the donations were anonymous, I became suspicious and wanted to stop”, explains the streamer, who adds that he has repeatedly asked his partner to stop sending him money. He claims to have received $ 4,000 in bits, out of which he received about $ 2,000 (about $ 1,800).
As reported by the specialist site Upcomer, another turkish e-sportsman, professional player of Valuing, a competitive shooter, has admitted to being involved in these fraudulent fund transfers. Of them anonymized and published testimonials by the same site describe a similar modus operandi: streamers were approached by an individual explaining that he had found a way to earn bits by watching ads, and offering to send them those bits while sharing the proceeds. “There was nothing to arouse suspicion. No one knew they were fake credit cards and stolen money ”, said one of the streamers interviewed.
Suspects on the run
The affair, which received little media coverage outside Turkey’s borders, prompted political reactions in the country. Gürsel Tekin, a deputy from the main opposition party – the Republican People’s Party – called on the government to launch an investigation in November, while believing that Amazon-owned Twitch was not acting on it. . “Large digital companies have a responsibility to prevent crime on their platforms. Terrorist organizations, the mafia, drug networks launder billions of dollars and send money to their members ”, he explains to World.
According to the daily Liberty, the research carried out by the Istanbul investigators allowed identify at least 44 suspects in eleven different regions in total, four of which are still wanted; searches were carried out in particular in Ankara, Istanbul and Antalya. However, the amount of funds raised by this network has not been disclosed.
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Twitch money laundering network dismantled in Turkey