Facepalm: If parents of mobile game-loving kids needed another warning to turn off in-app purchases, here it is: a six-year-old Connecticut boy spent $16,000 on Sonic Forces using his mother's credit card.
The New York Post reports that George Johnson from Wilton, Connecticut, used mom Jessica's iPad and card to make the purchases during July. In Sonic Forces, these start at $1.99 and reach $99, allowing access to more characters and more speed.
While working from home during the pandemic, Jessica didn't realize George was spending hundreds of dollars at a time, including racking up $2,500 across 25 charges in one day alone. "It's like my 6-year-old was doing lines of cocaine—and doing bigger and bigger hits," Jessica said. "These games are designed to be completely predatory and get kids to buy things. What grown-up would spend $100 on a chest of virtual gold coins?"
When Jessica saw hundreds of dollars charged to her Chase account from Apple and PayPal, she assumed it was fraud and called the bank. "The way the charges get bundled made it almost impossible [to figure out that] they were from a game," she said.
Jessica filed a fraud claim in July when the charges reached $16,293.10, but it took until October before Chase told her to contact Apple. It was only after an agent from the Cupertino company went through the charges and Jessica saw a Sonic icon did she realize who was responsible.
"My son didn't understand that the money was real," she told the Post. "He's playing a cartoon game in a world that he knows is not real. Why would the money be real to him? That would require a big cognitive leap."
It seems that Apple wasn't too sympathetic to Jessica's situation, pointing to the 60-day window for claiming money back as to why they won't refund the charges. '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,' Jessica explained.
Despite revealing she wouldn't be able to pay her mortgage, Apple told Jessica, whose husband looks after the two children full time, that she should have turned off in-app purchases in the settings. "Obviously, if I had known there was a setting for that, I wouldn't have allowed my 6-year-old to run up nearly $20,000 in charges for virtual gold rings," she said.
When George was confronted about his spending, he promised to pay her back. "How? I pay him $4 to clean his room! I literally told George, 'I don't know about Christmas,'" but Jessica still believes the fault lies solely with Apple. "I may have to force this kid to pay me back in 15 years when he gets his first job," she joked (presumably).
Despite the warnings, the incident is the latest example of what happens when kids have access to their parents' payment methods. Back in June, a dad discovered his 11-year-old daughter spent almost $6,000 on Roblox. There was also a teen who "unknowingly" spent $8,000 on one of the FIFA games, and another 11-year-old who blew almost $7,500 on microtransactions over two weeks.
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