Six-year-old spends $16,000 on iPad game purchases

Six-year-old George Johnson secretly racked up more than $16,000 in Apple iPad game purchases from within his favorite video game, Sonic Forces — leaving his mom with a shocking credit card bill.

Apple App Store on Apple devices
Apple’s App Store

Doree Lewak for The New York Post:

While working from home during the pandemic, Wilton., Conn., real estate broker Jessica Johnson, 41, didn’t realize the younger of her two sons had gone on a shopping spree on her iPad. Over the month of July, George bought add-on boosters — starting with $1.99 red rings and moving up to $99.99 gold rings — that allowed him to access new characters and more speed, spending hundreds of bucks at a time.

When Jessica discovered Apple and PayPal were withdrawing hefty sums — $562 here, $601 there — from her Chase account, she assumed it was a mistake or fraud and called the bank, confused by the unitemized charges… Still clueless that it was George’s doing, Jessica filed a fraud claim in July when her bill reached $16,293.10 — but it wasn’t until October that she was told by Chase that the charges were indeed hers and she needed to contact Apple.

She realized it was George only when she reached out to Apple and was walked through a “buried running list of all the charges. You wouldn’t know how to [find] it without someone directing you,” Jessica said. When she saw the Sonic icon, she knew it was George.

“[Apple] said, ‘Tough.’ They told me that, because I didn’t call within 60 days of the charges, that they can’t do anything,” said Jessica. “The reason I didn’t call within 60 days is because Chase told me it was likely fraud — that PayPal and Apple.com are top fraud charges.”

She admitted she hadn’t put preventive settings on her account, because she didn’t know about them.

MacDailyNews Take: Oops! Now there’s an expensive lesson in parental responsibility.

Obviously, you should use parental controls on your child’s iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. With Content & Privacy Restrictions in Screen Time, you can block or limit specific apps and features on your child’s device, including iPad game purchases. And restrict the settings on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch for explicit content, purchases and downloads, and privacy.

To prevent iTunes & App Store purchases or downloads:

  1. Go to Settings and tap Screen Time.
  2. Tap Content & Privacy Restrictions. If asked, enter your passcode.
  3. Tap iTunes & App Store Purchases.
  4. Choose a setting and set to Don’t Allow.

You can also change your password settings for additional purchases from the iTunes & App Store or Book Store. Follow steps 1-3, then choose Always Require or Don’t Require.

prevent iTunes & App Store purchases or download

More info about how to set various parental controls on your child’s iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch here.

34 Comments

    1. ……jeez Apple…, with 400 billion in the bank…, I think 🤔 you can shave off 16 small for the kid…., is the game any good 😌 sonic I don’t know…☝️🌿🦜

      1. Apple should make it a secret Santa gift, otherwise every one will be asking for a free handout.
        The software could include additional safeguards. Like having to enter the password for larger in-app purchases, 2 step verification, or sending users a monthly statement of in-app purchases.

    2. Apple charged me twice a month for my HBOmax subscription for six months. It took me a while to realize that I was being double charged. Completely Apple’s fault, but they only refunded 2 months of their fuck-up. If I chargeback on my credit card then Apple blocks your card. And $56 isn’t worth suing over individually.

    3. In App purchases should be off by default, and a large print warning required before authorizing. Also this reauthorization should be required every few hundred bucks and confirmed via email.

  1. I think George’s future is working for the Fed, or at least somewhere in the govt. He can rack up massive bills that someone else will pay for. He can pretend it’s Sonic Forces for big boys.

  2. How exactly? Whenever you buy, it requires passcode or touch/Face ID to confirm and should notify her iPhone of the charges once it happens. Clearly, she hasn’t implemented any features. Amazing

    1. Setting up a child’s account isn’t SUPER straight forward and besides, during this pandemic, many parents were thrown into giving the child THEIR iPad to do online schooling etc. and Zoom… and likely provided the kid with their password.

      Honestly, if it WERE NOT IN the digital economy… if a kid was taking mommy’s credit card and PIN and walking into Walmart (unbeknownst to her) and buying video games… RED Flags would be alerted and NO one would blame the parent for bad parenting, but rather the store.

      These games use predatory addictive pricing and to be completely honest SHOULD be dealt with. The refund window should be extended for digital purchases. These things cost next to nothing for these game developers to make compared to the cash they bring in.

  3. Never have liked in game/app charges or subscriptions, charge a fair price up front and let that be the end.

    Clean it up Apple or the nanny state will do it for you.

    1. There’s a little nanny developing right within Apple and most of Big Tech. They’re too sophisticated to call it that, or pure to admit that’s what’s really happening.

    1. And universities are developing gaming programs that entice “scholars” with gaming rooms outfitted for kings. If you don’t want to play football, or run track, there’s also a growing option to letter in E-Sports.

      No need to get off the couch, ever. Please pass the chips.

    1. Your attempt to rehabilitate your reputation is not going to work BigQuankerX. We know you’re scumme, and related to the disgusting developers that enable this kind of behavior

  4. I hate freemium games. This is particularly evil. It is aimed at a kid, and then tries to get the kid to spend mom’s money. You can’t blame parents for not understanding that Apple’s interface could allow this to happen.

    If Apple doesn’t take responsibility, and protect users from obviously forceable accidents like this, then Apple will DESERVE a nanny state.

    1. … (Slang for suckers). I also hate Freemium games. They are a giant pyramid scheme where the the people at the top make all the money and everyone else pays out. This made Wizards of the Coast a fortune selling Magic the Gathering and any number of health care products too numerous to name. Casinos understand this perfectly.

      Now this is a legitimate way to spend your money if that is what you really want AND can afford it. I don’t begrudge Devolopers a steady stream of income from a quality product but what really irritates me is that freemium games are proliferating to squeeze money out anyone who downloads one and then needs to pay up to find out whether the game is worth the cost (the Marks).

      Too many of these Marks and others whine about the cost of App store games. They want free and get it – for a cost. When I would pay maybe $30+ for a good Mac game, $40-$80+ for a board game
      the App costs are minor in comparison. I would rather buy a good game and good game port than these so-called “Freemium” products. I usually boycott freemium games but on occasion have downloaded one and bought a few upgrades within my online game budget – the $10 mentioned about. I have been much more satisfied with buying a game and getting the upgrades from conscientious developers.

      As a wise man once told me: “You only cry once when you buy quality.” Every time I followed this principle, I have never regretted it and every time I didn’t, I have.

      1. I only have partial sympathy for this lady. t would be a nice PR gesture and an unpleasant precent for the developer or Apple to return some of the money but not all. Maybe having her paying $1000 or so would provide a clearer understanding of how supervise children on electronic devices.

        1. I have zero sympathy for this, what must be, LIBERAL woman. Conservatives are by default better with money. If she allowed this to happen, then let it be a learning opportunity for her.

          Anyone who doesn’t think the same must be a welfare liberal with no sense of personal responsibility.

    1. That’s just ignorant of you. You really think most people should expect the racket that is in app purchases when they get their first iPad ? In app purchases are an abomination meant to trap unsuspecting people new to the concept.
      It should not be possible to spend anywhere near that kind of money in a video game. It is absolute nonsense. Insane. Beyond insane. Especially a game meant for kids.
      Do you even have kids BTW?

      There should be much stronger controls. You should have to opt in to in app purchases with a clear warning that Apple can bill you 1000’s of dollars very easil if you’re not careful.

      1. There ARE no stronger controls. They could have a “control” where an “Apple Prod” installed when you set up your iPhone gives you an uncomfortable shock every time a penny is spent, and then the “Apple Notifier” that plunges a 4 inch needle into your arm if you spend more than $10.00 in a day! People will still ignore what they want to ignore and complain afterwards that “THERE SHOULD HAVE BEEN MORE WARNING!”

  5. Lame excuses. Tell you what, if I found out there was 16k worth of charges on my card you’d be damn sure that I’d be on that phone 24×7 with whoever it took to make sure it was resolved. I wouldn’t just “wish it would go away”. This whole era of this “not my fault” bullshit is ridiculous.

    Grow up and take responsibility for yourselves! The government does not exist to fix mistakes you make from your own stupidity.

  6. This is RIDICULOUS. These are digital purchases and you just simply request a refund. If anything, Apple can force the hand of the game developer to accept the refund, if it wanted.

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