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Criminals Making Real Money Stealing My Virtual Stuff


Games such as World of Warcraft allow players to increase their strength and abilities with gold which they gain through various in-game activities. Some players bypass the rules of the game and purchase gold directly from of other players. This buying virtual gold with real money has led to a cottage industry of players playing for gold, rather than fun. Although Blizzard Entertainment, the makers of the game, have flexed their legal muscles in an attempt to quash some of this activity, shutting down people capitalizing on the exchange of information has proven difficult.
Now a new threat has arisen. Hackers break into the game, steal a playerÂ?s account information and then proceed to sell all of the playerÂ?s virtual wealth for real money, sometimes amounting to several thousands of dollars. Microsoft security development engineer Dave Weinstein warned online gamers “Those of you who are working on massively multiplayer online games, organized crime is already looking at you.”
One of the huge attractions for criminals is the legalÂ?s systemÂ?s lack of understanding of computers. If someone stole my wallet or stole my identity in real life, the police and courts have experience with these situations and are equipped to handle them. If someone stole $10,000 worth of virtual property or sold my account information, the judicial system is unlikely to take action. Most police and judges understand very little about the online gaming environment and are unwilling to set new precedent in protecting online property.
Criminals exploit this lack of knowledge and unwillingness to intervene. The problem will continue to increase, with millions of dollars being taken illegally every year, until law enforcement and the courts decide to make this real-world theft a priority.

Brett Trout

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Posted in Internet Law.