Katrina Fincham was a gold farmer with a sense of humour. After making more than $75,000 real-world money in World of Warcraft, she converted the cash into something more solid: Bars of gold bullion. And then the gold was stolen, and her insurance company won’t pay up.
For Fincham, gaming was a business. She spent hours in World of Warcraft collecting in-game items which she then sold for real-world money. Her first taste of gold farming came when playing Ultima Online, when she realised she could make a little extra pocket money simply by performing mundane tasks.
In Australia, gold farming is recognised as a legitimate income source, as long as farmers include details on their annual tax return. Fincham – working full-time as a nurse – did this, and set up a real-world business: Virtual Item Sales. She made thousands, working late hours to meet online demand.
On any given night, Fincham would make multiple exchanges of up to $700 each – and she’d be paid in cash, finding cheques or money orders inconvenient.
With piles of money building up around her home, Fincham decided to turn $75,000 of her fortune into something even more valuable:
There were things in the news that gold was a good investment and, in a couple of the games, gold was the actual currency – so gold seemed like a good idea at the time.
And it would have been a good idea, had the gold not been stolen.
In 2008, Fincham went on an interstate holiday with her boyfriend. While she was away, her house was robbed – three times – and the wall safe containing gold bars was among the items taken.
The gold bars were insured, but Fincham’s claim was rejected. Insurance company AAMI accused Fincham of only converting the money into gold bars so that it could be stolen, and simply refused to pay over the theft.
When Fincham sued her insurer, the company issued a counter-claim, accusing her of insurance fraud.
Fincham’s business was ruined. Her former customers were chased by insurance investigators, and she was unable to work. Her day job as a nurse suffered because of the stress the case was causing her. The “nest egg” she’d worked so hard to save up was gone, and she was forced to sell her house to cover costs.
The final twist? Turns out it was an inside job, but Fincham herself was not involved. Her then-boyfriend, who she’d met online, tipped off the criminals in exchange for a paltry $500.
The case continues in front of a South Australian court.