Grand Theft Auto Online cheaters
GTA Online cheats are in panic as Rockstar clamps down on "stealth money" hackers. Rockstar Games

Rockstar Games has reportedly stepped up its campaign to rid cheaters of their illegitimately obtained billions of in-game money in Grand Theft Auto Online and is issuing permanent bans for repeat offenders.

Players impacted by the ban-wave appear to have been exploiting the currency system by using third-party hacking tools to manipulate the code of Grand Theft Auto 5 on PC. Said tools are purchased from dedicated websites and effectively "inject" the hugely popular online portion of the game via executable files, reports Motherboard.

The hacking tools present crafty players with a special cheat menu which includes an option to exponentially increase in-game cash totals to spend on weapons, cars and houses. The illicit trick, dubbed "stealth money", is capable of increasing GTA Online account coffers by billions, however most cheaters limit their ill-gotten gains to millions in order to avoid being spotted by Rockstar's anti-cheat detection.

Unfortunately for GTA Online's more unscrupulous player-base, Rockstar has seemingly turned the tables on the thieves and is pilfering their bootleg booty.

Users on the Unknown Cheats forums began posting about their cash-loss woes several days prior to GTA 5 publisher Take-Two Interactive's controversial legal threats towards popular single player-focused modding tool Open IV.

Several users noted losses of up to $100m and posted screenshots (embedded below) detailing Rockstar's actions, while others expressed worry that further reductions and permanent bans are an inevitability in the near future. Despite this, some posters claimed to still hold billions of dodgy cash using other GTA Online hacks including "Ped Drops" - a cheat that fills the game with dead bodies carrying thousands of dollars at a time.

After a notable fan backlash, that included the creation of a "F**k Take-Two" blimp, Rockstar has since ensured fans that single-player PC mods will not be banned in GTA 5. Open IV has since come back online, but other mod tools targeted in cease and desist orders by Take-Two, namely those which effect GTA Online, will not be coming back anytime soon.

"We are aware of cheaters who are manipulating the in-game funds and RP levels for themselves and other players in GTA Online," notes Rockstar in a support post. "In an effort to create a fair gameplay environment for all players, we routinely perform security sweeps for any illegitimately gained GTA$ and/or adjusted RP levels."

"Players who have had their accounts affected should see corrections being made," the post reads, with Rockstar confirming that money earned in-game or via premium microtransactions "will remain on the account and are not affected by illegitimately gained in-game money removal."

This isn't the first time Rockstar has embarked on a widespread attack of GTA Online cheaters' accounts in recent memory. In February, the New York juggernaut drained player funds obtained through exploiting a number of in-game glitches, with some bank balances reset to zero.