Smurfing

What is Smurfing in gaming?

The term ‘smurf’ is used in gaming to describe a player in an online game that creates a new account to play against lower-ranked players, however, it can be used as an all-around term for describing a player who uses an alternate account or multiple accounts.

It’s called smurfing due to two very good players in a game called Warcraft II. Players would simply avoid playing them if they saw their usernames, so they created new accounts to combat this, choosing “PapaSmurf” and “Smurfette” and the term has stuck since. 

What is Smurfing in banking?

A smurf in banking is a money launderer that aims to avoid attention by breaking large transactions up into multiple smaller, less suspicious transactions. These are also generally spread over many different accounts.

It’s somewhat unclear why it's called smurfing, but the general belief is that it comes from illegal drug manufacturers who use multiple accomplices to avoid legal limits and suspicion when purchasing drug components. 

Is Smurfing a bannable offence in gaming?

Rules range from game to game. Some games, like Fortnite and Rocket League have taken a serious stance against it and it is against the rules. Meanwhile, other games allow it, relying on their matchmaking systems to take care of it.

Smurfing happens for a few reasons. It can be due to high-ranked players having to wait too long for a game at their rank, or wanting to play with their friends who are lower ranked. However, there are also more malicious reasons, like high-ranked players wanting to dominate new players, or even throw abuse at players without putting their main account at risk. 

Overall, it is heavily frowned upon in just about every game, meaning negative stigma and community pressure may lead to it becoming a more serious offence in gaming as a whole in the future. 

Could 2-step verification be the answer to smurfing?

A more strict verification method is definitely a step forward to reducing smurfing in games. A big reason smurfing is so popular is because it is so easy, for some games all it takes is creating a new account, which can be done in seconds.

A proper verification system like tying mobile phone numbers, or directly verifying players through automated ID verification methods for gaming would definitely reduce the number of smurfs. Some players could still get past it by buying a new sim card, or using a friend’s details and ID to make an account, but verification still puts a significant barrier to entry for smurfing, which currently greatly benefits from high ease of access. 

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