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Habbo LogoReuters UK is reporting that Dutch police have arrested a seventeen-year-old Habbo Hotel user for the theft of almost $6000 worth of virtual furniture from other users of Habbo Hotel, a virtual world for teens.

An Amsterdam police spokeswoman confirmed a report that the teenager was accused of stealing 4,000 euros (2,844 pounds) [$5857 US] worth of virtual furniture by hacking into the accounts of other users.

Four other 15-year-olds have also been questioned in the case, which was instigated by the Web site. They are suspected of moving the stolen furniture into their own online hotel rooms.

Habbo does not have an active currency exchange and discourages RMT, but does sell “coins” for about $0.20 each, which can be used to purchase virtual furniture and items (some are expensive rares), and play online games.


Habbo Hotel Room

A few things jump out here. First, for better or worse, more and more countries are taking virtual property seriously, even in closed worlds that do not acknowledge RMT. It’s just a matter of time before this happens in the U.S., and it is starting to look like the U.S. is falling behind. There must be “magic circle” protection for spaces that make an effort to remain play spaces, but when companies are exchanging real money for tokens, furniture, custom avatars, and the rest — sometimes a lot of money — the law has to recognize that the result of the transactions have real value.

Second, Sulake Corporation apparently got involved themselves — the case was “instigated by the web site” according to Reuters. Two years ago, I’d have bet on 10 comments against them for it. Now? I suspect they’ll be mixed, at most. I think virtual world users are finding they appreciate a little hands-on governance when it comes to theft, gold farming, griefing, hacking, and all the rest of what makes virtual worlds and games less fun. Personally, as far as I’m concerned, good for Sulake; this is a seventeen-year-old who allegedly stole almost $6000 worth of other kids’ — mostly younger kids’ — allowance money. Seems a fine place to draw a line.

And finally, RMT reality check. Six grand? In a virtual world for teens? How is that even possible? How much can this stuff be worth on a per-item basis, and how much pixelated junk can you fit in a Habbo Hotel room anyway?

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21 Responses to “Dutch Police Arrest Seventeen-Year-Old for $5800 Virtual Furniture Theft at Habbo Hotel”

  1. on 14 Nov 2007 at 6:52 pmBenjamin Duranske

    Thanks to my former co-worker Thayer for the heads’ up on this one. Now, when are you going to write something for VB?

  2. on 14 Nov 2007 at 7:51 pmcsven

    “And finally, RMT reality check. Six grand? In a virtual world for teens?”

    I’m surprised you’re surprised. When credit cards migrated to high school kids, I stopped.

    *Meanwhile, marketing ears perk up at that $6000 figure*

  3. on 14 Nov 2007 at 8:10 pmBenjamin Duranske

    Good point, csven. My surprise, I think is that the figure either indicates (a) a huge number of accounts that got hacked, (b) a fairly sophisticated theft that targeted the right players, or (c) a much higher average account value than I’d have ever guessed. It could be that they hit people with rares. Prices for these items are expressed in terms of rubber ducks, sofas, and thrones, and I’d need a native translator to figure out what it all means, but sufficient scarcity of some of the items could explain the valuation.

  4. on 14 Nov 2007 at 8:50 pmaaronPsmith

    csven makes a good point, the figure is defiantly inflated. Also, this is a social network for teens. Teens are the perfect market to market ‘nothing’ to. Social networks are the ‘cool’ thing. If it is cool, then all the teens want to do it. In this Habbo space, if one teen has that cool pimped out virtual pad, then the rest of them need one as well. So teens will spend the money that is needed to create the coolest pad, so that they fit in with their ‘virtual’ friends. If need be they will go to the lengths in stealing it from gullible Internet users, so that they can brag about having the most and best virtual ‘stuff.’

  5. on 14 Nov 2007 at 9:42 pmDoubledown Tandino

    Your last paragraph was exactly what I was thinking as I was reading your blog post. I was imagining the entire world being desolate and vacant of furnature, and every single kid in the world surrounding this one hotel where a few boys can’t even move because they’ve stacked and packed their rooms with furnature.

    Benjamin, what are your thoughts about the kid being a minor? Obviously, there is wrongdoing because he hacked into accounts. My view is THAT is what he did wrong…. I dont feel that he stole $6000… Like, for example, I could see the legitimacy of real life police becoming involved if it were Second Life…. and the claim of $6000 would be valid there.
    … but a place for teens to play? And the only way they can get these coins is parents credit cards or earning it inworld? It seems to me that a virtual world for minors IS a game. I don’t think a virtual world where you can’t cash out is anything more than a game with a points system.
    When I die in grand theft auto, I dont blame the character on the street that killed me, and I don’t sue him for the money and weapons i lost.

  6. on 14 Nov 2007 at 10:07 pmcsven

    I didn’t say I thought it was an inflated figure. Actually, I don’t find it surprising. My most recent blog entry posted today is about virtual goods, and I linked back to an older entry that included this old quote culled from a BW article:

    Most of my classmates play Kart Rider, and I want to look cool in the game,” says 9-year-old Park Kun Hee, who recently bought an avatar costing $2.50, a car for $3.50, goggles for $2.50 (to see through smoke thrown off by opponents), and more. His father cut him off after he spent $150 on the digital stuff.

    Of course would never spend *real* money on “nothing” ;)

  7. on 14 Nov 2007 at 10:11 pmcsven

    Did I mention I sent a check out to exercise some stock options yesterday? It was either that or save the money for tickets to the Super Bowl (people sure can charge a LOT of money for pieces of paper).

  8. on 14 Nov 2007 at 10:29 pmBenjamin Duranske

    @5 – I do think that kids ought to be handled differently. We all did our fair share of dumb things as teenagers. And I do agree – where you can’t cash out, it’s not exactly the same as stealing $6000, though I expect that the guy’s victims felt robbed of at least that in value, given how strongly people feel about their virtual stuff. I’ve mentioned this here before, but I’m still a little pissed about getting scammed out of an incredibly rare pair of dark green ranger sandals in Ultima Online way back in 1999 and that’s not because they were worth real money.

    It does appear to be pretty good news for this guy that he got arrested in the Netherlands and was under 19. I’m not an expert on Dutch law, but based on a little research (see link below) it sounds like he’ll be dealt with by a juvenile criminal law system that is heavily focused on restitution and rehabilitation.

    It actually seems like a really sane juvenile justice system, which is to be expected, I guess, based on everything else I know about the Netherlands.

  9. on 15 Nov 2007 at 7:53 amDoubledown Tandino

    What if you still had those ranger sandals today, what would you be doing with em?

  10. on 15 Nov 2007 at 10:19 amBenjamin Duranske

    You know, believe it or not, I’d be wearing them in UO. I was just considering reactivating my account because I was looking into UO again a few weeks ago when I was writing about virtual currency (they’ve had a remarkable inflation problem) and I got really nostalgic. I still think UO got the in-world justice/PvP/vigilante system almost perfect right off the bat. Then they created a giant safe zone in order to increase their playerbase and it became a lot less fun, but it used to be grand and there are still a few servers that work that way. Apparently you can now move your characters to these harder PvP “shards” if you want to, which is pretty appealing.

    Here’s a topic tie-in — even the rarest stuff in UO (which wasn’t targeting teens) was never worth *that* much. I knew a guy that bought a giant structure called a “Tower” for about $1000 US at one point, but I can’t fathom how much stuff you’d need to own to make it total $6k, which is why I’m sort of scratching my head about these Habbo numbers.

  11. on 15 Nov 2007 at 5:25 pmc3

    sneakers- 200usd
    Designer T shirts -50usd
    Concert tickets to POP stars shows 200usd

    Surprise that 30 year olds pay for thier
    Xbox games by promoting the same ethos in pixelated communities “for” 15 year olds….


    Look to the current CNET blog story about what kids learn in virtual worlds by stefanie- im no daniel T-olsen.

    Each media generation has encapsuled its younger next in increasingly tighter and less responable bubbles that continue to move each generation further from any sence of value based on the reality of the other or the physical world.


  12. on 23 Feb 2008 at 10:06 am-Suds

    It’s pretty funny that the guy got arrested. Everyone says he is cool for hacking all of the people but you wouldn’t think he is so cool when he hacks you. Think about that. I was also hacked by Finch-Himself on Habbo. He stole a Typo that I just got a few days before. For some odd reason I do not know, he also took 17 Club sofas from my hand as well. Not like the supers aren’t enough.

  13. [...] BBC News, See also e.g., [...]

  14. on 28 Feb 2008 at 4:59 pmEgg246

    Ok, $6000 worth of the best rares in Habbo.

    You can get an awesome room that’s fairly large on Habbo for only $7.

    And mind you, it’s their buisness how they spend money.

  15. on 24 Mar 2008 at 6:02 pmchalisef

    I want to see a picture of him! does him look mean?

  16. on 25 May 2008 at 10:26 amsk8erbike


    Can i be a police on habbo is a good idei because if some on
    being bad and swaering i can talk to them and they never do
    it angin and we can save the holtel.


  17. on 25 May 2008 at 10:28 amsk8erbike


    Why cant habbo can have police so we can save
    the holtel and stuff so people wont get hurt and swaered
    and stuff please.


  18. on 18 Sep 2008 at 9:34 pmJoe

    Wow i knew Habbo is just an epic failz, i hope theres anonther raid

  19. on 15 Apr 2009 at 1:18 amFurniture Depot

    Virtual furniture… I guess the Police was virtual too? :)

  20. on 30 Jul 2009 at 6:23 amChandra in Blender - Architecture +

    [...] Architects & with the history of CopyBot and now stories like ” Dutch Police Arrest Seventeen-Year-Old for $5800 Virtual Furniture Theft at Habbo Hotel“, we understand the IP rights issues and will not delve into those now. IThis lil post is [...]

  21. on 16 Aug 2010 at 9:22 amKaylen

    this is stupid cos now people are making fakes of finch and its scaring the shit senseless outta everyone. :/

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