On Tuesday, Turkish police in eleven different provinces took forty suspects into custody for an alleged money laundering scam that used the Twitch streaming platform.
According to Demirören News Agency (via Daily Sabah and Dexerto), the suspects are accused of using stolen credit cards to buy Bits, which are essentially the platform’s virtual currency. Those Bits were then allegedly sent to streamers, who then paid the scammers real money through a 70 to 80 per cent refund.
So, if the scammers bought 1,000 Bits for $US10 ($14), this could be a way for them to make $US7 ($10) or $US8 ($11) from a stolen credit card, and streamers to pick up the difference. Compound more stolen credit cards and much higher dollar amounts, and you end up with a scam that could total an estimated $US9.8 ($14) million.
This appears to be a long-running operation, with an email paper trail going back two years.
The arrests were the result of a fraud investigation by the Chief Prosecutor’s Office. Out of the forty placed in police custody, some suspects are reportedly minors.
Daily Sabah covered the suspected scam in November 2021 after a thread titled “Thief KO streamers” appeared on well-known Turkish forum frmtr.com. The thread alleged that some smaller streamers with only 40 to 50 viewers were making significant amounts of money. However, it wasn’t only forum threads that were sounding the alarm.
In late October 2021, Ahmet “Jahrein” Sonuç announced in a tweet that he had documents proving the money laundering allegations. Jahrein is one of Turkey’s most famous streamers with 1.7 million subscribers. “Money was laundered through Cheering with Bits anonymously using stolen credit cards,” Jahrein wrote (via Duvar English). Jahrein called for Twitch to act swiftly to stop these abuses.
Some streamers have admitted that participating in the ruse — or at least, that they got wrapped up in the whole mess. But to what extent did they know about the alleged scam? Were they in on it? This will be up to Turkish authorities to probe and, if necessary, prove.
More widely, is this an isolated incident or is this happening elsewhere?