How to find a free game while avoiding scams

Five things to keep in mind when choosing a free PC game to play.

We describe five things to keep in mind when choosing a free PC game to play.

Generally speaking, you shouldn’t download just any free stuff you find or open links that promise freebies. Something that seems to be free can still cost you, even if your good mood is the only price. Here, we share some tips about how to choose a game so that you will not be disappointed later.

Download games from trusted sources

More and more gaming platforms appear every year: Steam’s dominant market position has spurred Origin, uPlay, Epic Games Store, and others to try to develop their own offerings. And many indie developers want to sell games directly on their own sites to avoid paying sales commissions to stores. Therefore, some gamers have gotten used to the idea that there is nothing wrong with downloading a game directly from a random website, even if they have never encountered it before.

Sorting out such a diverse range of offerings can be difficult, a situation Internet scammers exploit. For example, they lure gamers to phishing sites, where they distribute malware made to look like new games or well-known free-to-play titles such as Fortnite.

So, if you are prompted to download something from an unknown site, resist the temptation. (Also, never click on links from strangers; even a single click on a URL can download some nasty stuff.)

Manually enter the address of the game store in your browser

Links that claim to lead to official sites will not always take you there. If someone writes a post on a forum claiming that you can download the Battlefield collection free from the Origin store, take care before entering your username and password on whatever page the link opens. The site may well be fake, hosted at an address very similar to the one for the real store. Hackers want to collect your login information and hijack your account.

Generally speaking, even if an offer on a forum does not seem suspiciously generous, it can still be a trick. It’s best to use the game stores’ official clients or enter the URL in your browser’s address bar manually.

Look for verified developers and publishers

Even small studios can release games that become global hits, so gamers follow new developers just as closely as they follow large, established publishers. The cybercriminals who disguise malware as the latest indie gem in early access are looking to exploit this interest.

Therefore, before downloading anything, you should first search for information about the project on the Internet. If the developer has encountered any security issues, then most likely you’ll find stories about it in gaming media and on forums. Which leads us to our next tip …

Read other players’ reviews

In 2018, the developers of the game Abstractism, which had passed moderation on Steam, were caught secretly mining cryptocurrency on users’ computers. It was the gamers who exposed the scheme, having noticed the program was an extreme resource hog. Even before the platform’s administrators caught on to the scam, reviews left by angry gamers tanked the game’s rating.

So, be sure to read reviews before installing a game. If a game has garnered a lot of criticism, that should give you pause.

Do not turn off protection

It is very difficult to be on constant alert. If for any reason you distractedly click on a link, however, you can count on a reliable security solution to combat malware and scammers. Antivirus software can detect a fraudulent website before it causes any harm, scan installation files, block suspicious activity, and protect your most valuable data.

Some gamers disable their protection because they think that will help maximize their game’s performance. That’s actually a bad idea, mainly because the moment you disable your antivirus solution, Windows’ built-in protection will kick in, and it will eat up some of your computer’s resources. By contrast, some third-party solutions, such as Kaspersky Premium, offer a gaming mode in which the antivirus software lightens its load on the CPU during game play. Microsoft Defender does not offer that feature.

Play freely and securely

Free-to-play games can offer just as much fun and quality as paid products. The examples of Dota 2, League of Legends, Fortnite, and numerous indie development projects on Steam prove this. However, you should keep security in mind.

  • Download games from official sources only. If you are not familiar with a site, then how do you know the stranger who posted the game installer did not add anything to it?
  • Check the reputation of the developer and publisher before downloading a game: If they have already been found to have acted unethically in the past, then you should avoid this release.
  • Explore comments and impressions about the game from other users. If it’s a scam, other victims may have already written an angry review.
  • Protect yourself with a security solution. If you use our products, then you don’t have to worry about performance; our gaming mode minimizes resource consumption.