Dev Exposes How Fake YouTubers Steal Steam Keys With Ease
"I got 16 keys for 15 games, worth more than $400, in three hours"
A games developer has demonstrated how easy it is for scammers to pose as YouTubers and receive numerous Steam game codes for free.
Leszek Lisowski, the owner of Poland studio Wastelands Interactive, claims he sent 46 emails to fellow developers--whilst masquerading as a YouTuber--and asked each one for a free Steam code of their game.
"In reply, I got 16 keys for 15 games, which is worth more than $400," he said.
For marketing reasons, developers often give free game codes to YouTube personalities in the hope that they will be covered on their game channels.
Lisowski was spurred into investigating the matter after he realised that his own team was being scammed by fake YouTubers. He hopes that his report, which was self-published on Gamasutra, can help inform fellow developers of how easy it is to trick companies into supplying free Steam games.
Driving the point home, he writes: "Allow me to underline this: I spent three hours sending out emails to almost 50 developers simply asking them for a Steam key, claiming that I was a YouTuber with 50k subscribers. In return, I received Steam keys worth over $400. This means I could have theoretically made close to 150 bucks an hour."
Adding: "If I had spent some more time on making my identity feel credible, or just sent more messages, I feel confident that this ratio would have been higher. However, with just one message, 25 percent of the developers had been robbed."
Lisowski was alerted of the scam after discovering that one of his own games in development, called Worlds of Magic, was being sold on reseller websites without his authorisation. Suspicious of how this had occurred, Lisowski decided to purchase one of the games.
"I went to the store and bought a key using my credit card. Then I discovered that the key was one of those sent out to YouTubers. Initially I thought that the guy had taken three keys, kept one for himself and sold two of them, but after I checked it was clear that the guy had received only one key. It took me a while before I realized what is going on."
After further investigation, Lisowski believes that "roughly 70 percent of the keys we had given out were taken under false pretenses, or to use a more direct term, stolen."
Now, when asked for a Steam game code, he asks for verification.
"From about 20 additional game requests, I received only two YouTube channel confirmations," he wrote.