Dozens of players of online basketball series NBA 2K claim they’ve lost “at least $215,000” to scammers using the name of one of the community’s most popular figures.
This story originally appeared on Kotaku Australia.
NBA 2K, a virtual basketball series for PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch and Xbox, allows gamers to chat to and play against friends and strangers using in-game voice chat and online play modes.
Taking off last month via the #givetheirmoneyback hashtag, gamers alleged that prominent figure in the community @StepBackRack (who has 3,600 Twitch followers and is known commonly as ‘Rack’) stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Australian and New Zealand community, in what appears to be an investment scam. It’s alleged another gamer, @Raangee, was also involved in the scam.
YouTuber and streamer Tyceno was the first to bring to light the scam, which convinced young gamers to part with thousands of dollars in the belief they make thousands more.
“I have strong reason to believe @StepBackRack is the man behind a huge illegal pyramid scheme that took place in the NBA 2K community, in which over $200,000 got taken from young vulnerable victims believing they could ‘flip’ their money,” Tyceno wrote.
However, it’s not clear whether Rack or Raangee were knowingly involved in the scam or whether their handles were hacked. We have tried to contact them numerous times to no avail.
According to Tyceno, along with several alleged victims who spoke to us, “Rack” reached out to a number of young gamers via the in-game voice chat function. (NBA 2K’s terms of services prohibits using the service for unlawful purposes, commercial purposes, or to wager money with other individuals. 2K, NBA 2K‘s publisher, has not returned repeated requests for comment.)
Tyceno alleged Rack asked the gamers to invest large sums of money, promising unusually high returns of up to 40%.
“I lost $6000, was supposed to be paid $11,000 on that due to the ‘interest’ we were supposed to be paid,” one alleged victim, aged 21, told us.
“The scam took place originally by this dude Rack posting hundreds of thousand dollar bets and just trying to boast about how much money he apparently had.”
Another victim, aged 17, lodged a cybercrime report via the Australian Cyber Security Centre after allegedly losing $6,000 in the scam.
“He [Rack] explained it as giving a loan and being paid back with interest,” the teenager said.
“He had a great reputation in the community and took advantage of it to manipulate myself and others into sending large amounts of money.”
Another victim said the scheme reportedly had “so many people” signing up that Rack and Raangee, another NBA 2K player allegedly involved in the scheme, created an FAQ document was created to explain how it all worked.
In a document obtained by P.TV, Raangee claimed he was just “the guy who gets the opportunity for people”, while Rack and a third accomplice named Calvin, who does not appear to be a part of the NBA 2K community, dealt with the financial aspect of the scheme. (P.TV has been unable to reach Calvin, and has chosen not to publish his last name.)
“First of all, I want to say that what we’re doing is not illegal at all,” Rangee says in the FAQ document, obtained by P.TV.
“If it were illegal, I wouldn’t be doing it because no amount of money is worth me going to Jail. Also keep in mind, if this was a scam I, as well as [Rack] wouldn’t go through the efforts of putting our names out there for people to know who we are. I love this community way too much and I have invested a lot of time to make my name relevant.”
To put it simply, victims were led to believe that if they paid a sum of money to Calvin, they would be paid back (by Rack) with unusually high interest rates, while Raangee would receive a 25% cut as a sort of recruitment fee.
“He [Rack] usually sends a receipt of what we’re owed, and the money comes in around 7-14 business days because of his bank security,” the FAQ document claims.
“Most banks obviously take about 5 business days max to transfer, but Rack’s bank is different to the norm.”
Initially, participants we spoke to said they received the promised payments from Rack, but soon communications went quiet. Many victims claim did not receive money at all from Rack.
When they reached out about their money, the scammers would come up with excuses, or simply ignore them.
“We were supposed to get [the money] and it never happened. We waited like a month and he kept bringing up countless excuses such as his PayPal is locked, etc to buy time,” another alleged victim told P.TV.
A 20-year-old Aussie who alleges he lost $5,000, and has since lodged a cybercrime report, provided screenshots of his conversation with Raangee to P.TV.
The screenshot shows Raangee convincing the victim to invest $5,000, promising a return of $2,500.
“Ofc [of course] for anyone it’s scary to send money out,” Raangee says to the victim. “But I’m at the stage where I’m used to it now and I completely understand first-timers’ concerns.”
“I know of at least 20-30 people,” a fourth victim, age 20, told P.TV.
“I’d conservatively estimate [Rack] owes at least $300,000 (and that’s just of the cases I know about). A lot of my close friends.”
Countless victims have come forward with similar stories, all claiming that Rack repeatedly used issues with his bank and/or PayPal account as an excuse for not making payments.
But while some people are speaking out, it is believed others have been scared into silence, with the scammers reportedly telling them they’ll “get zero” if they speak up.
In a screenshot obtained by P.TV, Raangee gives a victim a copy of a conversation with Rack, asserting that the people will not get paid if they speak up about the situation.
We encourage all gamers to exercise caution and not to hand over money online.