12-Year-Old Rings Up $1400 Farmville Bill

Andy Chalk

One Flag, One Fleet, One Cat
Nov 12, 2002
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12-Year-Old Rings Up $1400 Farmville Bill


A woman in the U.K. is out a few bucks after her 12-year-old son ran up a bill of almost $1400 while playing the Facebook game Farmville [http://www.farmville.com/].

Farmville, for those few of you who might not be aware, is a free online game from Zynga [http://www.zynga.com/] that gives players the option to spend money on various "convenience items" and other game features. It's like most other free-to-play games in this regard and it is legitimately free; I know several people who play it quite a bit and I don't think any of them have ever forked over cash for the privilege of doing so.

A hardcore 12-year-old from the U.K. took a more generous approach, however: He rang up a bill of nearly $1400 playing the game, most of which ended up on his mother's credit card. She got the bad news when her bill arrived last month and she discovered that her son had blown through his own savings of about $440 before sticking her with another $953. Unfortunately, although the charges were made without her knowledge, she's on the hook for it.

"Facebook [http://www.facebook.com] and [game creator] Zynga will not refund anything as [her son] lives in my house," she said. "Facebook has disabled his account and Zynga has unhelpfully suggested I use password protection on computers in the future."

Her bank told her there is one way to have the charges reversed: File a complaint with the police. She's declined to do so, however, because although the boy would only receive a "caution," she was told it would stay with him for the rest of his life. "Obviously the idea of a stupid farm simulation jeopardizing his future earnings is not something that I want to consider," she said.

Amazingly, she's not blaming either Facebook or Zynga for the bill, admitting that her son is the one at fault, but she thinks that extra security for such games would be a good idea. "I do think they need to shoulder some responsibility in this business and put systems in place to stop this happening again. The fact that he was using a card in a different name should bring up some sort of security and the online secure payment filter seems to be bypassed for Facebook payments," she said.

Some sort of security like a password, maybe? I can't help but think that Zynga's "unhelpful" advice is actually right on the money and pretty much exactly what she's asking for. As is so often the case, protections are only useful if people bother to use them.

As for the young farmer, he was apparently "very shocked" by just how much the game cost but said in his defense that Zynga had offered "good stuff that I wanted." Hey, we've all been there, am I right?

Source: Guardian.co.uk [http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2010/apr/07/farmville-user-debt-facebook]


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Delusibeta

Reachin' out...
Mar 7, 2010
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Well, I'm going to be inclined to blame the parent in this case. Question: how on earth did he get hold of his mother's credit card in the first place? I realise there's far, far better places to blow $1400 than a flash game (a jewellers, for instance), but that is not the problem in this case.
 

cobrausn

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Dec 10, 2008
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Even at 12 I think I got the fact that lots of small numbers added together makes big numbers, as hard a concept as that is to get.

Glad she's not blaming the game though.
 

xavierxenon

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Aug 10, 2009
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I used to play farmville for a while, god only knows why, and I can't even think of how you can spend that much on it. You wouldn't have enough room to put everything so even at 12 years old you should know that its pointless.
 

Danpascooch

Zombie Specialist
Apr 16, 2009
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She thinks there should be a password for when you make charges ON ZYNGA GAMES, which I agree with.

Zynga's unhelpful advice was that she should have put passwords on her entire computer in anticipation of her son spending a thousand dollars online, that's just stupid.
 

Sjakie

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Feb 17, 2010
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Kids: still better with computers then parents.
Parents fail-> still blame developers.(even when she claims not to)
 

CosmicCommander

Friendly Neighborhood Troll?
Apr 11, 2009
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Andy Chalk said:
Her bank told her there is one way to have the charges reversed: File a complaint with the police. She's declined to do so, however, because although the boy would only receive a "caution," she was told it would stay with him for the rest of his life.
The way you phrase it, you seem to think getting a police caution is a trivial matter; it's actually not.

If you get a caution that is stored on the police database, and any potential employers can look at that and turn you down for a job.

So I think the mother made the right call, I hope that kid gets a lotta grounding, though.
 

Onyx Oblivion

Borderlands Addict. Again.
Sep 9, 2008
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Seriously. Kids these days don't know the value of money. Especially girls, I'm sorry to say.

I know this is a boy, but there are a ton of spoiled little princesses out there.
 

Ori Disciple

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Oct 22, 2009
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danpascooch said:
She thinks there should be a password for when you make charges ON ZYNGA GAMES, which I agree with.

Zynga's unhelpful advice was that she should have put passwords on her entire computer in anticipation of her son spending a thousand dollars online, that's just stupid.
Not really. He IS a kid after all, and kids do stupid things a lot. It falls to the mother/father/both to keep an eye on him, and Zynga is completely in the right. If she had put up a password, or more importantly, kept here Credit card number away from him (honestly, I would take steps to ensure that MY kid(s) would not get that number, whatever the cost), this would not have happened. but she didn't, and shes paying for it.
 

Delusibeta

Reachin' out...
Mar 7, 2010
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danpascooch said:
She thinks there should be a password for when you make charges ON ZYNGA GAMES, which I agree with.

Zynga's unhelpful advice was that she should have put passwords on her entire computer in anticipation of her son spending a thousand dollars online, that's just stupid.
The problem is that implementing parental controls kind of undermines the minimum age limit Facebook has set up. As far I'm concerned, the problem is the fact that he got hold of a credit card in the first place.
 

Armored Prayer

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Mar 10, 2009
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I cant help but think about the new South Park last night.

OT: Damn, that kid spent alot of money on it. How did he know how to us his mothers credit card?
 

XT inc

Senior Member
Jul 29, 2009
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Im dumbfounded by this If I was 12 and was going to blow through 1200$ on gaming, Id be getting a mad stack of ps1 games( at the time). Would never ever cross my mind to spend it on something as stupid as farmville what is wrong with kids these days.
 

Snowalker

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Nov 8, 2008
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Onyx Oblivion said:
Wow...um...Get a refund?

Seriously. Kids these days don't know the value of money. Especially girls, I'm sorry to say.
Right... thats why the person in question is a boy...


Anyhow, Its the parents fault, she claims to know this, she will now be broke. What more can we say?
 

Gunner 51

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Jun 21, 2009
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Wow, 1200 USD is one hell of a lot of money to blow on a game. I hope that kid finds some way of paying back his mother though.

But that's the trouble with digital distribution: you can't tell who in a household actually bought the goods. Ergo, no refund.

Yet Zynga were more than happy to keep the money for themselves and keep it quiet. Surely they knew that the farmer was a child somehow?
 

NeoAC

Zombie Nation #LetsRise
Jun 9, 2008
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Yeah I barely trust my 19 year old brother with a credit card, let alone a 12 year old. What was this woman thinking?