Fortnite is one of the most popular game in the world right now and with that fame comes scams. Like clockwork, an army of internet scammers has appeared to attempt to skim cash and information off gullible Fortnite fans. Websites and YouTube videos have sprung up in recent weeks offering to add v-bucks to players' accounts for free. But it’s a scam, and an old one.
Fortnite is free-to-play, so it makes money selling in-game currency, V-bucks, that players can use to buy upgrades, weapons, and costumes. Websites like fornitehacked.org, v-bucksgenerator.online, fortniteupgrade.com, and vbucksbooster.com tell gamers they can get free V-bucks if they simply follow some simple instructions. All they need to do is select the amount of cash they want, typically maxing out at 13,500—the equivalent of $99 if purchased legitimately through the game—give the website their Fortnite account name, and either fill out endless surveys or download an app.
If a user visits the site on the phone, it’ll redirect them to the app store and ask them to play a specific app for a few minutes in exchange for the currency. On desktop, the user goes through an endless parade of surveys designed to extract as much information from them as possible.
I tried one of the websites, fortniteupgrade.com, for myself on my PC. At the end of the first survey, it promised me a $100 Chipotle gift card if I’d stick around. When I hit the button to complete the survey, it just took me to another site and another survey. I went through three different forms before I stopped. Each new survey wanted my email address and asked questions about my income, age, the cost of my healthcare plan, and how often I went to the doctor. By the end, I’d been promised a $100 Chipotle gift card, a mountain of free V-bucks, and access to coding software. Spoiler alert: I didn't get any of that.
YouTube is driving eager gamers to these sites. As of this writing, a search for “free v bucks” on YouTube returns more than ten million results. 572,000 of those videos appeared this month. More than 4,000 appeared just today.
Every video is the same—the video tells people to go to a website, walks them through downloading app or filling out a survey, and then shows their own Fortnite account magically filling with V-bucks. It’s so pervasive that Motherboard learned of the scam when one of its editors saw one of these videos as a promoted advertisement on YouTube.
According to Fortnite developer Epic Games, these scams don’t work and that are designed to scrape data from users.
It’s an old problem that’s plagued the free to play and mobile market for years. The only new aspect is that the scammers have moved on to Fortnite.
“Almost any game that has a payable currency features this (ex. Roblox and Clash Royale) will have identical website just with the currency of the particular game,” Spencer Hurst, a YouTuber who vlogs about the issue, told Motherboard in an email. “These surveys… are just data mines that sell information to buyers on the underground market.”
The Fortnite sites are identical to many of the sites advertising free in-game currency for Clash of Clans (kinggiftcards.com) and Roblox ( getfreerobuxgenerator.club). They’ve just be reskinned to appeal to battle royale fans.
“This looks very suspicious,” Adrian Bednarek, a security analyst with Independent Security Evaluators in Baltimore, told me over email. Bednarek noted that there’s no way to transfer V-bucks between players and that one of the videos prompted users to subscribe to a service that would charge 5 euro to their mobile carrier. He also noted that, if they could, generate free V-bucks, they’ve picked a stupid way to make money. “Maybe these guys found an exploit by abusing their backend API's to enable this functionality. However, if this was the case they would make a lot more money putting up a standard website and selling say, 500,000 vbucks for $10.”
Most people aren’t going to fall for this, and Fortnite’s Reddit is full of threads mocking the sites. But, like with many other cons, it only takes a few gullible people to take the bait and make the whole thing worth it.