When the story surfaced, it was a bit of a mystery. Poker players reported being scammed for hundreds to thousands of dollars – up to $10K, in fact – through a third party via online gambling accounts.

Longtime poker pro Todd Witteles was one of the victims.

  • On October 20. someone created a BetMGM online sportsbook account in his name in the state-regulated market of West Virginia. They did so with his full name, home address, and last four digits of his social security number.
  • They then used the Global Payments processing method to transfer $10K of funds from Witteles’ bank account to the BetMGM account.
  • The next step was to cash out $7,500 of it, from the BetMGM account to a Venmo debit Mastercard and then to another Venmo account, the one belonging to the thief.
  • On November 4, they withdrew the last $2,500 from the BetMGM account in the same manner.

As Witteles discovered what had happened in early November, he reached out to the poker community on Twitter. He quickly found other victims, like Joseph Cheong, Joe Cada, and Angela Jordison. Others saw evidence of attempts to do the same, though either good timing or bank oversight saved them.

And once BetMGM and other site operators caught on, they began watching out for new accounts and contacting customers to verify their authenticity.

It wasn’t just happened via BetMGM accounts. There was action on other US-regulated sites like WSOP.com and DraftKings, for example, as well.

The common denominator appeared to be Global Payments.

Mainstream Media Coverage

As Witteles dug deep into the various victims’ stories and reached out to the online sites and Global Payments, he ran into walls. None of them wanted to respond or issue statements, much less warn the public about what was happening.

However, the story hit a new level. First, sports bettors became victims via DraftKings. That brought the story to the sports news pages.

And when those sports-focused news sites reached out to Global Payments for statements, it worked. The story inciting fear in sports bettors and creating the possibility of serious market impact prompted Global Payments and others to respond to queries.

Online Entities Speak

One of the immediately-affected companies issued a public statement on its social media account, and that was DraftKings. In addition, a short investigation showed that players were victimized to the tune of nearly $300K, and DraftKings planned to make every player whole.

Meanwhile, BetMGM, WSOP, and all other US-regulated sites neglected to mention anything on their social media pages warning players to keep their eyes open for specific activities.

BetMGM did comment to Front Office Sports to say that they were investigating the matter and working with their risk, payments, and compliance teams. “Player safety and security is of utmost importance to us.”

Global Payments finally issued a brief statement, seemingly to exonerate itself. “There has been no security breach or fraudulent accounts opened at our gaming business in connection with this investigation,” a spokesperson said. “The protection of our customers and their clients’ information and funds is our top priority, and we are working with these third parties to ensure any impacted individuals are refunded.”

How to Protect Yourself

Of course, the first reaction of most players is to change their passwords for online accounts. That is never a bad idea, but that doesn’t appear to be the method by which the thieves stole from players.

The best way to protect from theft in this situation is to close all bank accounts that have used echecks to deposit to online betting or gaming accounts. Next, change the email address with every online gaming account.

Melissa Burr had some smart suggestions:

Phil Galfond did, too:

Above all, be aware. Check your bank account statements online and all igaming site accounts.

 

Jennifer Newell

jen newell profile

Jennifer Newell

Author
Jennifer began writing about poker while working at the World Poker Tour in the mid-2000s. Since then, her freelance writing career has taken her from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back to her hometown of St. Louis, where she now lives with her two dogs. She continues to follow the poker world as she also launches a new subscription box company and finishes her first novel. Jennifer has written for numerous publications including PokerStars.com and has followed the US poker and gaming market closely for the last 15 years.
Jennifer began writing about poker while working at the World Poker Tour in the mid-2000s. She has written for numerous publications including PokerStars.com and has followed the US poker and gaming market closely for the last 15 years.