A group of Turkish streamers has exposed a massive money-laundering scheme that’s allegedly been exploiting Twitch’s monetization tools to funnel out millions of dollars.
As first reported by MEE, users in Turkey noticed that small-time channels with only handfuls of viewers were receiving “thousands of dollars” through Twitch’s virtual cheering currency, Bits. The report notes that “Twitch transfers one percent of income obtained through Bit to the individual streamers.”
According to the Turkish news site, Haberler, a total of $9.8M was laundered between 2,400 Turkish streamers over the past two years.
This fall hasn’t exactly been picturesque for Twitch, the streaming platform owned by Amazon, with a number of controversies playing out in the public eye over the last few months. Hate raids, which involve a surge of harassment targeted at marginalized streamers, ramped up, prompting streamers to take action while Twitch dragged its feet. And at the beginning of October, a massive data leak revealed racial disparities within the platform’s highest-paid creators. Now Twitch’s got a laundering scandal on its hands, too.
How they secured huge payoffs — If 125GB of internal data from the streaming platform wasn’t uploaded to the internet, it makes you wonder just how long this scheme could have operated in the dark. According to MEE, it all relied on Twitch’s Bits:
Under the scam, hackers firstly allegedly stole or obtained the credit card information of random individuals. They then negotiated deals with Twitch streamers to send them large payments of money through Bit.
The streamers would then refund 80 percent of the money they received to different bank accounts belonging to the hackers, effectively laundering the money.
A hashtag was created, #dobettertwitch, by a handful of smaller Turkish streamers in order to bring attention to the issue. However, it wasn’t until larger names got involved — like Grimnax, the self-described “100% HALAL GAMER” with close to 300k subscribers — that legitimate interest from lawmakers began materializing. The Turkish streamer even posted a screenshot of a Discord conversation with one of the supposed scammers reaching out to gauge interest in joining the laundering ring:
Allies to the cause — Jahrein, a very well-known streamer with close to two million subscribers, has become the face of the issue and met with Gursel Tekin, an Istanbul deputy from the Republican People’s Party (CHP). Following the meeting, Tekin presented a motion to Parliament calling for the Financial Crimes Investigation Board and other Turkish institutions to examine the problem.
Becoming the site of an international money-laundering scheme isn’t the best look, but Twitch has told MEE that the company has taken action against 150 Turkish streamers who have been linked to the situation.