Wednesday, December 16, 2020

This 6-Year-Old Racked Up $16,000 On Mom’s Credit Card Playing Video Games

Sonic Forces

A six-year-old boy from Connecticut succeeded in racking up more than $16,000 in Apple app charges on his mother’s credit card without her even realizing it. When she finally caught on and tried to get the money back from Apple, the company refused to reimburse her.

Jessica Johnson is a real estate broker from Wilton, Conn. working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Apparently preoccupied with her work, she didn’t notice that George, the younger of her two sons had gone on a shopping spree using her iPad and had bought numerous items enabling him to improve the speed of his Sonic Forces video game and access new characters. The items cost hundreds of dollars each but George simply charged them to his mother’s account.

On July 9, a day when Jessica was working in the next room, there were 25 charges totaling over $2,500.

“It’s like my 6-year-old was doing lines of cocaine — and doing bigger and bigger hits,” she joked of her first-grader.

After Jessica discovered the sums being withdrawn from her account, she assumed that it was a mistake or fraud and called her bank, which reassured her that the charges were indeed fraudulent. Jessica filed a fraud claim in July after the bill reached $16,000 but in October she was informed by the bank that the charges were genuine and she needed to contact Apple.

Sonic Forces

Only after contacting Apple, she found out to her horror that George had been charging her card and that Apple had no intention of reimbursing her.

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

The company claimed that Johnson should have placed a preventive setting on her account to stop children from racking up charges. Johnson said that she had not known that such settings existed and would definitely have placed one if she had known about it.

“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 George the totality of what he had done, “He said, ‘Well, I’ll pay you back, mom,’ ” Jessica recalled. “How? I pay him $4 to clean his room!“ I literally told George, ‘I don’t know about Christmas.’ ”

Jessica blames Apple, saying that they intentionally draw kids into cartoon games where real money is spent on an imaginary world. She says it would “require a big cognitive leap” for a child to understand that the money being transferred is real.

Her advice to 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.”

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