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Social Gamers Subject to Unauthorized Charges, According to Suit

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Sacramento, CAGaming users have a serious bone to pick with Facebook and the Zynga Game Network over an estimated $500 million in unauthorized charges billed to their credit cards. Rebecca Smith had to change her bank account to put a stop to the unauthorized charges. She 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 Swift'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.

Facebook recently announced that it would suspend all special offers that it could not verify as having legitimate value to users. "These advertisers generally violate Facebook's own rules, and this has been going on for two years," says Parker, pointing out that many people have already been the victims of unauthorized charges.

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 handles a wide range of cases including personal injury, class actions, wage disputes, dangerous drugs and medical malpractice firm. Several years ago, it successfully served as lead counsel in a class action against AOL 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. Kershaw, Cutter & Ratinoff has achieved multimillion settlements for dozens of clients in a wide variety of legal areas.

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