Twitch has long been a place where streamers seem to bring in huge revenue just for playing video games. While their skills as content creators and esport players justify most of the salaries, sometimes there is foul play at work. Recently a Twitch money laundering scheme seems to have been uncovered, involving many streamers across the world using the platform to launder money, and even hacking Twitch accounts to do so.
Twitch Money Laundering
In recent weeks, a scandal has been growing around Twitch. International communities for Valorant and Twitch have called attention to a stream of suspicious activities across Turkish live streamers for a while, with some players even stepping back from the game because of the exposure. It looks as though as much as $9 million has been laundered through Twitch by a small group of Turkish Valorant streamers.
People first began to notice something wasn’t right with this community when the recent Twitch leaks. They revealed the earnings of streamers. While most people were focusing on who made the top 10 of the leak, some people noticed something strange further down. A large group of relatively obscure streamers were bringing in huge amounts of donations via bits.
Bits are a form of Twitch subscription which are fairly unique as they are partially refunded, at least in very specific circumstances. The streamers who were receiving these large donations of bits were refunding the majority of these donations. This means that streamers with low viewer numbers had large donations, and were refunding the majority of them despite refunds being quite rare on Twitch.
How Did the Money Laundering Work?
That’s what initially tipped people off to the suspicious activities on this corner on Twitch. Further investigations have now been done though, which have shed more light on how the Twitch money laundering worked.
Those behind the Twitch money laundering used a variety of Twitch accounts. These were their own accounts or stolen accounts, they then used hacked credit cards to make the donations. This allowed them to use compromised credit cards to pay for the transactions. The streamers then refunded 80%ish of these donations. This allowed the donations to go into the legitimate bank accounts of those laundering the bits. It let the money pass through compromised credit cards, into a useable bank account with relative ease.
The bulk of the streamers who received these donations were Valorant players. This has led to a bit of a scandal in that community, with some players even leaving esports because of it.
8-9 ay önce böyle bir teklifle gelindi ama bana bir çok pcden reklam izleyip bit kastıklarını söylediler ben de 2-3 ay gelir olarak gördüm sonra doğrusunu öğrendiğimde direk bıraktım 6 aydır böyle bir şey yapmıyorum böyle bir şey olduğunu bilseydim sizce bu işe başlar mıydım ?
— farewell (@orcnkoroglu) October 26, 2021
The scale of this scandal has been staggering, with an estimated $9 million being laundered through the platform. This isn’t the biggest chunk of Twitch’s revenue, and it is even less to parent company Amazon. However, it is far too much to go unnoticed. Twitch has already banned 150 accounts in September. People expect them to take further action on this recent scandal to suspend accounts associated with this.
While bans would be great, the scale of this operation shows a clear flaw in Twitch. The activity was suspicious enough to be caught quickly once their data leaked. The lack of prior action from Twitch shows they need to look more carefully at any accounts seemingly abusing refund features. Refunds are meant to be rarely used. The alternative would be instigating much more invasive security measures for users, but this could be avoided by more diligent policing of refunds from Twitch themselves.