Twitch’s high-profile data breach a few months ago has exposed a massive money laundering operation in Turkey.
The Twitch data breach that occurred in October disclosed numerous details about the earnings of the top Twitch streamers, as well as internal code used to power the platform and its apps.
While most streamers were not affected by the leak, some streamers in Turkey were exposed for receiving very large amounts of donations in Twitch’s currency tokens, bits, despite having relatively few followers and subscribers on the video streaming platform.
First introduced in 2016, bits function as a virtual token that allows fans of streamers to support their favourite creators with “cheers” and other emotes, and give them a payout. Partners and affiliates earn $0.01 per bit, while Twitch takes a cut on the initial purchase.
According to Middle East Eye, the leak showed how credit card thieves in Turkey used stolen credit cards to purchase and donate large amounts of bits to streamers who would then refund the bulk of those illicit donations into different accounts while keeping a fraction of the proceeds for their participation. In other words, the streamers committed money laundering.
The publication reported:
Global Twitch streamers, who became aware of the money laundering scam following the leak, last month began a social media campaign on Twitter via a hashtag called #dobettertwitch.
Turkish Twitch users then started their own campaign with a hashtag calling for a “clean Twitch” (#temizTwitch).
According to the calculations by the Turkish news website Haberler.com, a total of $9.8m was laundered through 2,400 Turkish streamers over the past two years.
A Valorant pro gamer and streamer, BBL Legoo admitted to taking part in the scheme in a Twitlonger post. He admitted that roughly $4,000 was sent to his channel as part of a scheme he was invited to by a friend who propositioned him to make some quick cash. He claims to have been assured that the entire enterprise was legal.
The streamer, who has since been permanently suspended from Twitch claimed that he “jumped like a fool and said okay.”
“Later, when I realized that the Bits were anonymous, I became suspicious and wanted to quit. But since I was on the rise at that time and the person who did it had a trump card [on me], even though I told the person many times that I didn’t want to continue, I was forced to do it,” he said.
Another Valorant pro gamer, Mehmet Yağız “cNed” İpek, admitted involvement but insisted he did not intend to take part in the fraud, according to PC Gamer. BBL, a professional eSports team has dismissed several of its members, including Legoo over suspicions of involvement in money laundering.
Turkish politician Gürsel Tekin, is now leading the charge against the money launderers and has called upon Turkey’s Financial Crimes Investigation Board to conduct an official investigation into the extent of the criminal scheme and make arrests.