A CS2 scam is a type of fraudulent activity specifically targeting players of the game CS2 (Counter-Strike 2). Recently released, the game has seen a significant rise in scams because skins in the game have significant real-world monetary value.
The primary objective of these scams is that they are designed to illegally acquire these skins, or the personal credentials of the Steam accounts that own those skins. Once acquired, these skins can be traded or sold for real money, and can even be traded for crypto.
Due to their relatively unregulated nature, and because Steam’s authentication isn’t all that great – CS2 players are a lucrative target for scammers.
What are CS2 Scams so Common?
CS2 scams are extremely common because they are easy to execute with no real repercussions. Simply put, mass-sending thousands of messages and scamming just one individual turns into a real payout if even one of the scammers has a high-value skin.
Plus, a lack of information also plays a compounding effect towards the prevalence of CS2 scams. Most aren’t aware of CS2 scams, and due to their rapidly evolving nature and an addendum of new features and crosshairs, they can be hard to spot sometimes.
Lastly, Steam has not really put in a lot of effort to counteract scammers. Accounts can still message on a whim, and external links are still clickable without warning. Plus, scammers usually operate for a few days before they get caught. However, the damage is usually done by then.
Who are the targets of CS2 Scams?
High value inventories are usefully the target of CS2 scams. However, that doesn’t mean that you with your cheap CS2 AWP skin are safe. There’s still a very large chance of you succumbing to a CS2 scam as there are a lot of untargeted scams that target large swathes of individuals in the hopes of someone taking the bait.
In the context of CS2 scams, it’s important to understand that all players, regardless of their inventory’s value, are at risk. While it’s true that high-value inventories are often the primary targets due to their potential for bigger returns for scammers, those with less expensive items are not immune to attacks.
It’s also worth noting that these scams are evolving and becoming more sophisticated. Scammers are constantly devising new methods to bypass security measures and deceive players. They often create fake websites, phishing links, or pose as legitimate traders or community members to gain trust. The more convincing these scams are, the harder they are to identify, making even the most vigilant players susceptible.
Different Types of CS2 Scams
CS2 scams, while varying in their disguises, typically adhere to a predictable framework. They are primarily aimed at either acquiring your valuable items through deceptive trade offers or obtaining your login credentials to gain direct access to your account.
So, typically, they’re going to involve you clicking a link, downloading something, or providing access to your account in places you have not. Identifying these patterns and the underlying framework can help you veer away from being scammed.
Phishing Emails are one of the most common CS2 scams. This is where scammers masquerade as legitimate entities to extract sensitive information from user. This tends to catch users off-guard as a well-crafted phishing Email with the right sender domain name can feel convincingly authentic.
Let’s take an example: One day, you receive an email that appears to be from Steam. The subject line reads, “Urgent: Your Account Security is at Risk!” This immediately grabs your attention. The email explains that there have been several login attempts from unfamiliar locations and urges you to change your password immediately to secure your account. A sense of urgency is conveyed, implying that failing to act swiftly could result in your account being compromised.
The email looks official, complete with Steam’s logo and branding, and it contains a link that says, “Reset Your Password Now.” You’re concerned about your account’s security and the valuable items in your CS2 inventory, so the immediate response is to click the link and follow the instructions.
However, here’s the twist: By clicking on that link, you are unwittingly falling into a phishing trap. The link doesn’t lead to Steam’s official website but to a fake page that’s expertly designed to mimic Steam’s login page. When you enter your username and password to reset it, this information is actually being sent directly to the scammers.
Instead of securing your account, you’ve just given the scammers access to it. With your login credentials in their hands, they can now access your Steam account, take control of your CS2 inventory, and potentially lock you out of your own account.
One particularly common tactic used by CS2 scammers is them creating fraud websites. These sites are designed to mimic legitimate CS2 trading platforms, with the intention of deceiving users into divulging their Steam login credentials or other sensitive information. To illustrate this, let’s dissect how these scam sites operate using a hypothetical yet realistic example.
Consider a well-known and trusted CS2 trading site, which we’ll call “GenuineTradeCS2.com.” This site has built a reputation for secure and fair trading practices. Now, scammers, aiming to exploit the credibility of “GenuineTradeCS2.com,” create several look-alike websites. These counterfeit sites have URLs that are strikingly similar to the original, but with minor alterations that can be easily overlooked.
Here are some examples:
- GenuineTradeCSS2.com – Notice the extra ‘S’ inserted.
- GenuineTradeCS3.com – Here, the number ‘2’ is replaced with ‘3’.
- GenuineTradesCS2.com – An additional ‘s’ after ‘Trade’.
- GenuineTradeCS2.co – The domain ends in ‘.co’ instead of ‘.com’.
At first glance, these URLs might seem identical to the authentic one, especially if you’re not paying close attention. This is precisely what the scammers are banking on.
When you visit these fake sites, they present you with a user interface and features that are almost indistinguishable from the real “GenuineTradeCS2.com.”
The lesson here is to always be vigilant when accessing CS2 trading sites. Double-check the URL, especially when clicking on a link from social media, an email, or a search engine result. Scammers often employ black hat SEO techniques to rank their fake sites higher in search results for certain keywords.
Fake Match / Tournament Scam
Getting betrayed by a friend is a horrible feeling. It only gets worse when you find out that friend ran away with your skins and inventory too. While less common, since people generally do not download random files from the internet, the Fake Match / Tournament Scam goes like this:
- Friend Invitation: Your friend, whom you trust, invites you to join a CS2 tournament or match. They express excitement about the competitive opportunity and the potential rewards.
- Requirement for Participation: They inform you that to participate in this match or tournament, you need to download a specific anti-cheat software or a special client. They provide you with a link to download this software.
- Downloading the Software: Trusting your friend, you download and install the software from the link provided.
- Software Functionality: The software appears to function as an anti-cheat tool, but in reality, it’s a Trojan horse or a keylogger. It discreetly begins to gather sensitive information from your computer, including Steam login credentials.
- Access to Your Account: The scammer (who might be impersonating or using your friend’s account) now has access to your Steam account, using the data captured by the malicious software.
- Loss of Inventory: With access to your account, the scammer transfers your CS2 skins and inventory items to their account or sells them for profit.
What do we learn from this? Do NOT download any file from the Internet that originates from a random link. CS2, while flawed, has a perfectly capable anti-cheat which all tournaments use already.
Man In The Middle Scam
This is a scam that a lot have fallen to because it tries catching when you least expect it. Here’s how an MITM CS2 scam goes:
- Initial Contact: A scammer approaches you with an attractive offer for one of your CS2 items. The deal seems too good to pass up.
- Trade Request: Instead of directly trading with you, the scammer asks you to list your item on a legitimate CS2 trading site. This request seems reasonable and doesn’t raise any immediate red flags.
- Listing the Item: Following their suggestion, you list your item on the trusted trading site, expecting a trade offer to come through from the site’s official bot.
- Scammer’s Deceptive Move: Before the legitimate trade offer arrives, the scammer quickly sends you a fake trade offer. This offer is meticulously crafted to look like it’s coming from the trading site’s bot.
- The Critical Moment: The scammer’s timing is key. They send their fake offer in the small window of time before the real trade offer arrives, hoping you won’t notice the difference.
- Accepting the Fake Trade: In the haste and excitement of the moment, and with your guard lowered, you might not thoroughly check the trade details. Mistaking the scammer’s offer for the legitimate one, you accept it.
The best way to avoid this attack is to always trust your gut. If something just seems too good to be true, it probably is!
Steam API Key Scam
To understand how a Steam API key scam unfolds, let’s first clarify what a Steam API key is and its intended use. The Steam API key is a tool that developers and third-party services use to interact with your Steam account for legitimate purposes.
It allows these services to initiate and cancel trades, as well as monitor your inventory and ongoing transactions. Importantly, even with your Steam API key, an attacker cannot confirm trades on your behalf without access to your email or mobile app if you have Steam Guard enabled.
We find the Steam API Key scam pretty scary, as a scammer can wait for months and monitor your trades before they actually intercept.
Now, let’s explore a scenario where your Steam API key is compromised:
- Accidental Exposure: You accidentally provide your Steam API key to a scammer. This could occur if you enter your key on a fraudulent website that mimics a legitimate CS2 trading or inventory management service.
- Scammer’s Action: Once the scammer has your API key, they start monitoring your trade activities. They wait for you to initiate a legitimate trade, such as selling a CS2 skin.
- Interception and Duplication: When you execute a legitimate trade – for instance, selling a CS2 skin for $50 on a reputable site – the scammer uses your API key to intercept and cancel this trade. They then create a new, duplicate trade request.
- The Deceptive Trade: This new trade request is an exact replica of your original trade but with a crucial difference: the recipient is now the scammer’s account, not the intended legitimate trading partner.
- Final Deception and Loss: If you don’t carefully verify the details of the trade, especially the bot account’s name and ID, you might unknowingly accept the fraudulent trade. As a result, your item is sent to the scammer’s account instead of the legitimate destination.
To prevent such scams, it’s crucial to safeguard your Steam API key and only enter it on trusted, verified websites.
Ad scams often start on search engines or social media platforms, where scammers cleverly manipulate advertising services, like Google AdWords, to promote their fake trading sites. These sites are designed to closely resemble legitimate trading platforms, both in name and appearance, but with subtle differences, especially in the domain name.
To illustrate how this works, let’s consider the example of a legitimate trading site, DMarket Inc:
Legitimate Advertisement: When searching for DMarket, a legitimate ad appears. The advertiser is clearly identified as DMarket Inc, and the website URL displayed in the ad is correct, guiding users to the genuine site.
Now, let’s examine how a scam ad differs:
- Scam Advertisement: In contrast, a scam ad for a fake trading site may appear in your search results, attempting to mimic the legitimate DMarket site. The ad’s title and description might closely match DMarket, but there are crucial differences.
- Different Advertiser and Domain: The advertiser name in the scam ad won’t match the official DMarket Inc, and it won’t have any verification indicators. The URL, while similar to the real DMarket’s, will have slight alterations – such as a misspelling or a different domain suffix.
- The Deception: If you click on the scam ad, you’re taken to a website that looks nearly identical to the real DMarket. However, this site is a trap. Engaging in trades here, or entering your Steam API key, can lead to your account being compromised.
Always double-check the URL and the advertiser’s name for authenticity before engaging with any site, particularly those involving CS2 trading.
How to Avoid CS2 Scams?
With all of these CS2 scams detailed, there are a few things you need to keep in mind in order to avoid CS2 scams:
- Only trade on reputable websites: Sites like DMarket have stood the test of time when it comes to their repute and authenticity. When performing trades, always make sure you opt for sites that have had a few years of presence in the market and have positive reviews.
- Use 2FA wherever possible: 2FA is an excellent fail-safe for when everything goes wrong. Even if someone has your password, they can’t really do anything unless they have your 2FA code. So, wherever possible.
- Use a secure connection: Try not to perform trades on a Wi-Fi network in a cafe. Always open your account and execute transaction on a secure protected home network.
- Be wary of unsolicited emails: Not every Email that grants you fortunes is worth opening. As we’ve mentioned before, if you find it too good to be true, just ignore it. There’s no need for you to even attempt opening the link.
- Be careful who you trade with: If you randomly get added by an account, and then subsequently get a really great trade offers, chances are that there’s something wrong. Always verify who you are trading with.
- Use a trade intermediary: A trade intermediary helps establish trust and puts the minds of both parties at ease. We recommend using DMarket as an effective trade intermediary thanks to their elongated presence in the market.
- Strong and reliable passwords on all platforms: Use a password manager and ensure that all your passwords are different for every platform. So, if one of your passwords is compromised, not all your accounts are in jeopardy, a great gaming browser with good security also helps in that regard.
- Use 3DS for every payment: 3DS acts like 2FA. Here, where you make a transaction, you also get a code sent to your phone and Email with an OTP which you will need to provide for that transaction to go through.
What to Do If You Have Been Scammed
If you have been scammed, you should immediately contact Steam Support and report the scam to the relevant authorities, which is usually Steam. If you still are able to access your computer / PC, immediately reset your password and revoke your API key as well.
Lastly, deauthorize all devices and reset your Steam Trade URL to ensure that no other trades can be made without your approval.
CS2 scams have gotten all the more common over the past few years. With the game recently being released, its no surprise that an influx of new players have entered into the game, giving scammers free reign to take advantage of these relatively inexperienced players.