Virtual home burglary yet another peril of Facebook

A screen from the Facebook social game “Pet Society.”

Sure, kitty likes it now – but what about after Italian hackers have stolen everything? (Photo: CC BY/diana/Flickr)

Securing one’s home with the best anti-intrusion and alarm systems money can buy is a great idea in the real world, but securing a virtual home can be equally important when Facebook is involved. As MSNBC reports, Italian authorities are currently investigating a virtual home burglary that occurred in the Facebook game “Pet Society.”

Playfish does not endorse virtual home burglary

“Pet Society,” a pet simulation game from Playfish, enables players to amass virtual, fashionable trappings to amuse their electronic pets while tempting perpetrators of virtual home burglary in the process. Or at least that’s how Paola Letizia, 44, of Palermo, Italy, categorized it when she told police that a hacker had emptied approximately $140 of virtual items from her blue virtual cat’s abode. Everything but the cat was gone.

“I don’t think it matters that the flat only exists in Facebook,” Letizia told the Italian media. “It is real to me and I have suffered a real loss.”

Italian police are treating the virtual home burglary as “aggravated entry” into Letizia’s Facebook account. Once the thief is located, the penalty could be up to five years in a real prison.

Micropayments and virtual banks: Modern convenience, modern risk

Virtual home burglary on Facebook in “Pet Society” is the latest in a series of unfortunate financial events in the virtual world. According to Wired, online banks that cater to virtual societies like those in the game “Second Life” have had their difficulties. Ginko Financial, a “virtual investment bank” in “Second Life,” collapsed back in 2007, perhaps one of many early signs of the oncoming recession. There were calls for oversight, transparency and accountability after Ginko fell, particularly because virtual banks were not subject to the same federal regulation that applies to standard online financial institutions. Considering that Ginko was unable to pay back 200 million Lindens ($750,000), the scope of the problem was more significant than in “Pet Society.” But both cases suggest that more must be done to protect people and their money online.