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In a shocking bit of news, two players have been hit with criminal charges for their activity in Diablo III. One of the players used a RAT (remote access tool) to take control of other players' games and strip them of their items while his partner in crime scooped up the items, all in the hopes of selling the items for real money on the Real-Money Auction House.
Fusion did a report on the incident that originated back in 2012 when the two thieves tried to one-up other gamers during the massive outcry of accounts being hacked. Some of you might remember that there were a lot of scammers, hackers, keyloggers, phishers and gold sellers trying to do any and everything to get their hands on accounts and sell the goods through Blizzard's once coveted Real-Money Auction House, a service that has since been shutdown following various reports about people losing money to the service and many gamers complaining that it undermined the whole point of the loot-and-grind gameplay in Diablo III.
During the summer of 2012 two gamers, Michael Stinger and Patrick Nepomuceno, befriended and were drawn into the inner circle of criminality that breathes and surges in the underbelly of Diablo III's community. The duo wanted to make some extra cash and Nepomuceno had purchased a RAT to take control of other people's computers if they clicked on an image he would send them, tempting them to click by saying that the image was of a rare and hard to find item in the game. When unsuspecting users would click the image it would download the client RAT that would enable Nepomuceno to take control of their computer.
From there, Nepomuceno would strip the characters bare, leaving them naked at the shock and horror of the player who no longer had any control over the game. Stinger was then instructed by Nepomuceno to pick up the items, weapons and gear on the ground.
They did this a couple of dozen times to various users, all in an attempt to acquire the goods and sell them on the Real-Money Auction House.
Blizzard, however, was not daft to the wrongdoings of the nefarious duo.
The company had been tracking reports about hacking attempts, account theft and other incidents of a similar nature. Many players who wanted to get a detailed and thorough recount of how their accounts were infiltrated were required to get a warrant for Blizzard to release the data. In this particular case Blizzard was willing to allow this information to be made public because they're making Nepomuceno and Stinger pay dearly for their virtual crimes.
However, according to Stinger he told Fusion that he was unaware of Nepomuceno's true intentions and was not privy to the evil that lurked in his compatriot's heart, stating...
He just told me to share the link and I would get free items. I thought Patrick was doing some glitch, ...I didn’t really care, lol. I was getting free stuff. I was not driven for the money. I simply wanted to get better gear for my character: good weapons and armor.
He explained to Fusion that he didn't know that Nepomuceno was using a RAT, and when he found out he blocked him from his friends list on Facebook.
Blizzard wanted more than just to ignore the companions of crime or block them from Facebook. Blizzard is charging them for the time required to launch the full investigation into their antics, which comes up to $5,654.61.
The duo allegedly acquired nearly $8,000 worth of items but were unable to sell anything on Diablo's Real-Money Auction House. In fact, nothing sold.
Stinger is paying back the company, $100 a month at a time.
According to the L.A.-based federal prosecutor, Tracy Wilkison, she told Fusion that...
People think they are not going to get caught, that they’re not going to be found in their bedrooms on a computer. They don’t think it’s that big of a deal, [...] Gaming especially lends itself to this suspension of reality
This instance of having two virtual thieves plead guilty and get charged with paying back Blizzard for $8,000 worth of virtual goods that were never sold – and Blizzard actually reimbursed each of the players for the items that were taken – it brought about an interesting conversation within the gaming community. Should gamers be charged in real life for crimes committed in games? The Fusion article notes that committing “virtual rape” in games like GTA V could also help open the door for the law to start looking more seriously at in-game crimes.