High-profile poker players are being victimized by a banking scam that exploits weaknesses in the online casino payment processing system, according to the PokerFraudAlert website.
The owner of PokerFraudAlert is pro player Todd Witteles, who is himself a victim. He has so far has spoken at to least ten players who have been targeted but believes there may be many more. These include Joseph Cheong, Kyna England, David Bach, Sam Panzica, and Clayton Maguire. Others did not want to be identified and include a “big name,” Witteles says.
But by targeting Witteles, the mystery scammer has messed with the wrong guy.
Since falling victim to the scam last month, he has been “quietly investigating” behind the scenes. It was only when he began to realize there were more victims in the poker community, he went public with his findings on Tuesday.
On October 20, someone created an account in Witteles’ name on BetMGM West Virginia, a state the California-based player has never visited.
They were then able to make a $10,000 deposit from his bank account onto the BetMGM platform. They withdrew it immediately to a Venmo Debit Mastercard linked to a phony Venmo account, also in Witteles’ name.
But how was the scammer able to access his bank account? Witteles claims they didn’t need to because they were able to exploit a service offered by Global Payments Gaming (GPG) called “VIP Preferred.”
Global Payments is an Atlanta, Georgia-based fintech giant. GPG is its arm that processes payments for the US land-based and online gaming industry, based in Las Vegas.
VIP Preferred lets users deposit funds at numerous online gaming sites and even land-based casinos without strict security checks. That’s provided they a have good history of transactions processed by GPG on another gaming site where they underwent a more stringent verification process.
“[…] VIP Preferred … allows the scammer to access previously used bank account information, provided the victim has used eChecks in the past, on one of many legalized gambling sites,” wrote Witteles. “He uses the bank account that was used previously to deposit to these sites, which [is] saved and held by the payment processor.”
All they needed to pass a verification check was Witteles’ name, address, and the last four digits of his social security number.
The poker pro decided to publicize his findings after seeing a tweet from Cheong.
“Got debited via eCheck for $9.8k little over a week ago by @BetMGMPoker @BetMGMCasino somehow,” Cheong wrote. “I don’t even have an account. Seems other poker players have also been hit by this scam (?)”
Witteles is urging more victims to come forward. He says that the common denominator in each documented case so far is that the victim had previously deposited on a gaming site using an eCheck.
Every single person victimized, to my knowledge, had the money stolen from the bank account they used for past eCheck deposits on legalized gambling sites. This is very significant,” Witteles wrote. “If you never did eCheck deposits (where the money is directly drawn from your bank account) via legalized online gambling sites, there is a high chance you will not be affected by this.”
“…This was incredibly negligent on the part of Global Payments to make it so easy to impersonate someone and steal, and further negligent on the part of BetMGM and other legalized gambling apps to allow such large transactions on the same day the account was opened, including withdrawals!” he added.
Shadow of Suspicion
Witteles notes it’s suspicious that the perpetrator appears to have “extensive knowledge of Global Payments, its customer base, which sites utilize them to process, and somehow has access to the full personal information.”
In a statement to Casino.org Thursday, Global Payments said it was “assisting law enforcement with an investigation into fraudulent accounts set up at unaffiliated third parties using stolen personal information.”
“There has been no security breach or fraudulent accounts opened at our gaming business in connection with this investigation,” it added. “The protection of our customers and their clients’ information and funds is our top priority and we are working with these third parties to ensure any impacted individuals are refunded.”