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Philippines’ Anti-Cybercrime Group cautions public on risky ‘crypto’ gaming, scams

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Blockchain gaming, where play-to-earn (P2E) games such as Axie Infinity sprung to life, offers a whole new experience to avid gamers worldwide, but the Philippine National Police (PNP) warned that while such games are built on a secured network, risks remain.

In its bulletin, PNP’s Anti-Cybercrime Group (PNP-ACG) said bad actors are taking advantage of the popularity of crypto games as more Filipinos get into the space for additional financial support and a sense of belonging.

Unlike digital currencies, where prices fluctuate due to market activities and, most often, speculation, locals opt to invest in P2E assets as prices for these have relatively high chances of skyrocketing, especially if the game is booming and in-game assets are in demand.

“Crypto game tokens are susceptible to price changes, just like non-gaming cryptocurrencies, but some games limit how often you can withdraw tokens,” the PNP-ACG said.

Axie Infinity, a digital pet community where players breed and battle with their virtual monsters called Axies in exchange for assets that can be traded into fiat currencies, gained popularity at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and was put to the test following the Ronin Bridge hack in March 2022, raising questions over the security of the network and the need for decentralization.

But while the event shocked the global gaming community and forced several Filipino gamers who felt the brunt of the incident to ditch the game, other Axie players in the Philippines were not deterred and have continued to support the game to this day.

In 2022, Filipinos accounted for over 40% of Axie players worldwide, dwarfing Venezuela (6.31%) and the United States (5.72%), whose natives are vocal in supporting digital currencies.

However, as money comes into play, bad actors have proliferated the space, with the PNP-ACG urging players to be wary of who they transact with online, a call previously made by the Philippine central bank.

Authorities claim that suspects lure their victims through custom-created gaming apps with a promise of high rewards. But contrary to common fraudulent acts, scammers take their time before laundering assets from users.

“Cybercriminals contact victims online and build a relationship with victims over time. They then introduce victims to an online or mobile game, in which players purportedly earn cryptocurrency rewards in exchange for some activity, such as growing ‘crops’ on an animated farm,” the bulletin read, adding that assailants also make use of malware to hack their victims’ digital wallets and drain their hard-earned cash.

The digital asset sector is a budding industry in the Philippines, which means that it isn’t currently well-regulated. In this regard, investors of digital currencies and players of P2Es have to rely heavily on their knowledge of the space to avoid falling victim to scams and hacks.

The PNP-ACG urged digital asset users to thoroughly research the digital currency they are looking to invest in before jumping in and putting their money on the table. Additionally, authorities said it is vital to select a legitimate exchange for transactions and avoid clicking suspicious links online.

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