Rebecca Smith had to change her bank account to put a stop to the unauthorized charges. Smith is now the lead plaintiff in a national class action suit that alleges the two companies participated in consumer fraud by duping gamers into buying products and services they didn't need or want.
"This is really the secret shame of Facebook," says Smith's attorney, John. R. Parker, from Kershaw, Cutter & Ratinoff in Sacramento. "They got a lot of their advertising revenue through aggressive and scummy advertisers."
Hundreds of thousands of people in the US and around the world are regular players of Zynga social network games like Mafia Network, FarmVille and Zynga poker. "It has more installed applications than any other developer on Facebook," explains Parker. "It has just exploded since it was launched two years ago."
The games require virtual currency that can either be earned in the game, bought outright, or offered as a special bonus from advertisers.
They problem is, gamers often end up with charges for things they don't want or need. In Rebecca Smith's case, she ended up with monthly deliveries of green tea from China that she couldn't get stopped.
"She had about $150 in charges on her credit card," says Parker.
As many as 200 thousand other Zynga gamers may also have been hit with unauthorized charges. The suit aims to have the money refunded.
READ MORE CONSUMER FRAUD LEGAL NEWS
The internet can be a difficult world to navigate and Parker admits it is a challenging and complicated case. "We are not aware of any other cases like this being filed. But I think we are going to be up to the challenge," he says.
Kershaw, Cutter & Ratinoff is primarily a personal injury and medical malpractice firm. However it successfully served as lead counsel in a class action against AOL several years ago where people where signed up for accounts they did not want.
John R. Parker did his undergraduate degree at the University of Georgia and earned his J.D. at Harvard Law School. He is a member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of California.