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.
Farmville, for those few of you who might not be aware, is a free online game from Zynga 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 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?