Buying and selling imaginary land is the latest craze in the new economy of the blockchain-based virtual world that runs on non-fungible tokens (NFTs). Bubbleheads are spending thousands of dollars purchasing land in the metaverse and some are losing it all to hackers who have perfected the art of hoodwinking the novices.
Hackers trick unsuspecting investors into clicking links that look like genuine portals to the virtual universe but turn out to be phishing sites designed to steal user credentials and clean out their wallets in a matter of seconds.
Real estate in the metaverse — virtual worlds where social media, online gaming, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and cryptocurrencies combine to allow users to interact virtually — has recently risen to prominence because of significant involvement from celebrities and investors.
These virtual worlds are mostly created by videogame developers to include cities where users’ avatars can stroll and shop for a new winter coat or a painting to hang on the walls of their virtual homes.
By buying digital land in online worlds, investors are betting that property values will go up as more people join in. But like any other digital investment, the metaverse is very high-risk.
Metaverse enthusiasts compare the rush to buy virtual land to the scramble for domain names in the early days of the internet. There are currently a few thousand unique landowners on each of the main blockchain-based platforms.
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Sales of “real estate” in the so-called metaverse — digital renderings of properties located on one of the four major virtual platforms — topped $500 million last year, according to MetaMetric Solutions.
In their quest to join a new wave of web investors, some novices learned a lesson about the dangers of high-risk investing in the metaverse where phishing attacks are common.
Here are three things you need to know about hackers targeting the metaverse:
The metaverse it fairly new – just a year old – and authorities still do not track how much investors have lost to hackers. Phishing attacks on the metaverse has been on the rise in tandem with increased user interest pumping in more money.
Increased phishing attacks seem to have not diminished the interest of institutional investors, despite consumers of the new platform losing money to scammers. Animoca Brands, the firm behind The Sandbox, recently raised $358 million from renowned investors including Liberty City Ventures and 10T Holdings. The company currently has a valuation of more than $5 billion. Tech giant Samsung also launched a virtual store in Decentraland.
The China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, which supervises the establishment and ongoing business activities of banks and insurance institutions, warned in February about fraudulent metaverse projects. Its warning emphasizes the fact that the movements surrounding the metaverse have made it a prime target for scammers who illegally raise funds in the name of such projects and steal investors’ hard-earned cash.
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