Virtual Thief Charged

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Earlier this month the world saw yet another first, and although not as ground breaking as a moon landing or the first assent of Everest, the first arrest for a virtual theft still made headline news.

The case involved Dutch police arresting five teenagers in total for stealing furniture from the popular networking website Habbo Hotel, a site which is targeted towards youngsters. One of the teenagers, a 17 year old from Amsterdam, was charged with computer fraud and stealing as a result of the theft.

The teenager was charged with stealing £2,800 worth of virtual furniture, furniture that although only existing as images within the game was bought with real money. On the grounds that this furniture was said to hold a monetary value, its removal without permission constituted theft.

The group of teenagers that was involved in the case had got hold of the furniture by conning fellow uses out of login details and then moving the furniture to their own hotel rooms within the game.

Habbo Hotel was launched by Sulake, a company based in Finland seven years ago. It now has 80 million registered users spanning 31 countries boasting a turnover of £31 million.

In an example of other virtual theft mentioned on the BBC a Chinese gamer in 2005 was stabbed to death in a similar case involving a ‘dragon sabre’, a sword used within the game.

These cases certainly demonstrates how the internet is being subjected to increasing levels of crime on different levels, and certainly sends out a warning to people who spend money within hugely popular virtual environments such as Habbo. I think these arrests, and the charges brought against one of the individuals act as a clear warning to virtual thieves, and with increased methods of policing may boost the confidence of players within virtual environments in the future.


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