BALTIMORE — Avid gamer Ben Ferry discovered Fortnite before it got big.
“So I played it, didn't really enjoy the game and then I quit playing it and sort of just abandoned the account,” Ferry said.
That was about two years ago before the wildly popular "Fortnite: Battle Royale" was released. A year later, he noticed some activity on his account.
“I started seeing charges to my account on Fortnite to the tune of around $300,” Ferry said.
The funds were withdrawn from his PayPal account, which was automatically linked when he first started playing.
Ferry immediately tried contacting Epic Games, the game’s maker. He called, emailed, even tweeted, and sent a Facebook message.
“Then I tried to contact them through the Better Business Bureau, leaving a complaint and hoping maybe they'd respond that way but they never responded to that either,” he said.
Others did the same. The company went from a few complaints to accumulating nearly 300 in the last 12 months. In January, the Better Business Bureau gave Epic Games an "F" rating.
“Epic Games has refused to address any of the customer's complaints,” said Angie Barnett, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving greater Maryland.
She said sometimes they'll respond, but only to say they're not affiliated with the BBB and to contact them directly.
“Then the customer comes back to BBB and says, ‘I tried to do what they say, I still can't get to someone,’ so it's a recurring issue of their customer service,” Barnett said.
Customers also complained about billing issues and hacked accounts.
“Many of these complaints are not just $10 or $20, they're in the hundreds of dollars, even thousands of dollars,” Barnett said.
Ferry not only lost money, he lost access to his account. Whoever made those purchases also changed his password.
“If it's a highly ranked account, or maybe it's an account with a lot of items that have been paid for, they do have monetary value on the black market, so that's common across all games,” Ferry said.
While the "F" rating doesn't help the company, it probably won't hurt the popular survival game. If you're hooked, Ferry warns to worry less about your avatar and more about your payment information.
“If you want to make payments, I would do it on a per transaction basis and I wouldn't link any of your accounts: PayPal, credit card, anything. I wouldn't save it in your account to prevent from being compromised,” Ferry said.
WMAR reached out to Epic Games for a comment on this story but did not immediately hear back. This story will be updated with their response.
Fortunately, Ferry was able to obtain a refund through PayPal, but he says he never received a response from the company.
Tips for players and parents:
- Know if your payment information is automatically stored in your/your child’s account
- Use a credit card in case you need to dispute the charges
- Keep in mind that when kids play they're able to chat with strangers