Family might have to cancel Christmas after their child spends over $16K in the App Store
A six-year old child living in Wilton Connecticut by the name of George Johnson is in some hot water with his parents. During this past summer, Johnson quietly amassed more than $16,000 in charges at the Apple App Store for his favorite video game "Sonic Force." George's mom Jessica, working as a real estate broker out of her home, had no idea that her youngest son was spending all of that money via her iPad. The story was published on Sunday by the New York Post.
Apple refused to refund the $16,000+ spent by a six-year old in the App Store
During July, George was buying add-on boosters starting at $1.99 for red rings and $99.99 for gold rings. These gave his character more speed and other special advantages. His purchases were amounting to hundreds of dollars at a time. On one occasion in July, when her son was ringing up 25 charges adding up to $2,500, Jessica was in the very next room unaware that her son was using her money to pay for in-app purchases. She did notice amounts like $601 and $562 disappearing from her Chase account, but she chalked it up to fraud or a mistake and when she called the bank to get to the bottom of the matter, she was confused because the charges were not itemized. "The way the charges get bundled made it almost impossible [to figure out that] they were from a game," Jessica said. The mother of the first grader said, "It’s like my 6-year-old was doing lines of cocaine — and doing bigger and bigger hits."
Even when the total amount of money missing hit $16,293.10, Mrs. Johnson still had no idea that her son was responsible for the purloined funds. In October, Chase told her that the charges were legitimate and that she needed to contact Apple. When she got in touch with Apple, they walked her through all of the charges. When she saw the Sonic icon in the list, she finally realized that George was the culprit.
Apple told Jessica that there was nothing it could do. "They told me that, because I didn’t call within 60 days of the charges, that they can’t do anything. 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." Even when a customer service agent was told by Mrs. Johnson that she wouldn't be able to pay her mortgage for the month, the tech giant worth tons of cash refused to budge. The 41-year old mom was told that there was a setting she could have enabled to prevent something like this from happening. Jessica, whose husband takes care of the couple's two boys full time, said that she didn't enable those security settings because she didn't know about them. "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 stated. "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 explained to her son what he had done, he promised to pay her back indicating that at his age, the concept of money remains foreign to him. She had to tell George that she doesn't know about Christmas this year. One thing that she does believe is that Apple is at fault. As Jessica pointed out, "My son didn’t understand that the money was real. How could he? 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."
Making matters worse, the U.S. is suffering from a global pandemic that has left many without a source of income. Jessica, whose income is based on commission, says that she didn't get a paycheck from March to September and her income is down 80% this year. She does have advice for other parents: "Check your security settings. I’m appalled that this is even possible in these games and that Apple devices are not pre-set to prevent this."