Gold farmers are pretty annoying when they’re spamming world chat, but there’s a darker side to the illicit virtual currency trade.
Information Systems researcher Jean-Loup Richet (he has a Twitter, of course) penned a report on online money laundering in June last year for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s Tools and Resources for Anti-Corruption Knowledge.
According to the report, online games like World of Warcraft provide an “easy” way for criminals to launder money, opening multiple accounts in various games.
Money laundering, for those who don’t watch enough crime shows on TV, is when you take money that you’ve earned illegally through various crimes and put it back in the economy in a way that makes it difficult for law enforcement and tax authorities to find. For example, in Breaking Bad Walt’s lawyer encourages him to open a business and pretend his drug money is coming from customers paying cash for services.
Using the trade function of MMORPGs, criminals can easily transfer massive quantities of virtual currency to each other, including over international borders. The currency can then be exchanged back for real money by selling it as a gold farmer. This leaves no evidence for law enforcement to follow, especially thanks to the growing popularity of prepaid credit cards and virtual credit cards.
For the record, we do not condone crime, or laundering money, which is also a crime in most territories. No crimes, kids.