Smart SpendingSmart Spending

Scams abound in free social network games

Facebook and MySpace games are rife with shady advertising, blogger says.

By MSN Money producer Nov 9, 2009 5:07PM

Trouble's brewing in FarmVille.

A small online firestorm was stirred up recently by technology blogger Michael Arrington at TechCrunch when he called out free Facebook and MySpace games for their deceptive advertising practices.

In the post "Scamville: The Social Gaming Ecosystem Of Hell," Arrington says games such as Mobsters and Farmville are raking in big bucks from ads that promise in-game currency in exchange for signing up for often dubious services. To make matters worse, the games that feature the most egregious scams have become the most popular with users, edging out games that don't feature such trickery.

There's a lot of blame to spread around, Arrington says. MySpace and Facebook have rules prohibiting such scams, but they are frequently ignored by developers. Enforcement of the rules by the social networks, which are indirectly profiting from the deception, is lax.


Arrington says it's easy to determine if these in-game offers are scams:

"For any particular offer, ask yourself if anyone would buy the product or service if the terms were clearly spelled out for them, and they weren’t being bribed with in-game currency. The answer for many of these is a resounding 'no.'"

It should be pointed out that there's little risk involved when playing these games as long as you avoid clicking on the advertisements.  Of course, before playing you should realize you're sharing your personal information with the game developers and marketers.

The post seems to have already sparked some change among developers. Zynga, one of the companies singled out by Arrington, announced last week that it would remove all in-game offers. That accounts for a 1/3 of Zynga's estimated $250 million in revenue.


What do you think? Have you noticed anything shady while playing free online games? Should Facebook and MySpace step up their enforcement of scam ads? We'd love to hear from you.


Related reading:

Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.


Smart Spending brings you the best money-saving tips from MSN Money and the rest of the Web. Join the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.