SACRAMENTO (CN) - Facebook and game developer Zynga help to scam customers with misleading ads that dupe them into revealing their telephone and credit card numbers and then bill them for bogus charges, a class action claims in Federal Court.
Players of Facebook games, including "Farmville" and "Mafia Wars," say they were scammed by misleading ads that persuade them to exchange their credit card and cell phone numbers in exchange for virtual cash to use in video games.
Lead plaintiff Rebecca Swift says she gave her cell phone number to a Zynga advertiser in exchange for a code redeemable for "Yocash," virtual money to use in the Zynga game "Yoville." Swift says that as a result, her cell phone was charged three times for $9.99 without her knowledge or permission.
On another occasion, Swift says she agreed to participate in a free trial for a green tea herbal supplement for more "Yocash." She provided a Zynga advertiser with her credit card number, and says she tried to cancel the trial before it ended. Nonetheless, Swift says she was charged more than $165 for the green tea supplements and was unable to get a refund.
At least 10 percent of Facebook's revenue is generated from users' participation in the "special offers," and Zynga has made from $33 million to $84 million from unwitting Facebook gamers who responded to the misleading ads, the complaint states.
The complaint cites a speech it attributes to Zynga CEO Mark Pincus, in which Pincus allegedly admits duping users for profit: "So I funded the company myself but I did every horrible thing in the book to just get revenues right away."
In response to media criticism, Zynga this month banned all special offers promoted through its games and Facebook also tried to bar the misleading ads, according to the complaint. But the class claims that neither company has offered to reimburse them for the money they lost.
The class demands restitution for unjust enrichment. They are represented by Stuart Talley with Kershaw, Cutter and Ratinoff.
Talley was unavailable for comment Wednesday.
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.