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26 March 2013

Expensive games

There have been several stories in the news recently about children running up huge phone bills, and/or  iTunes store bills because they have a device in their hands which enables "in-app" purchases.

This morning's story from the Daily Mail is another, but this one has an interesting twist.

"When he discovered he had run up a £3,700 bill on his father’s credit card playing games on his iPad, Cameron Crossan expected a very stern telling off at least.

The 13-year-old was mortified by what he had done – but worse was to come. For instead of punishing him, his father filed an official police complaint effectively accusing him of fraud...."

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2298771/Policeman-Doug-Crossan-reports-13-year-old-son-Cameron-FRAUD-running-3-700-iPad.html#ixzz2OdF67u3u
The father doesn't really want his son arrested, but he does "want to embarrass Apple as much as possible."

You may have read about this case recently, where a 5 year old spent $2,500 in a game.

It has always been possible to block these purchases on your phone or iPad.  There are very good directions for setting restrictions at arstechnica.  Apple has very recently made a small but significant change to iOS app listings on its App Store, adding a prominent "Offers In-App Purchases" line for freemium apps on its store.

Google Play gives directions for blocking in-app purchases at this page.

Here's a screen shot of a free app on the iTunes app store, and possible purchase clearly listed:
Screen shot
Parents and schools have been very careful about the settings on a computer used by children, but somehow mobile devices have not been looked on as being so "dangerous", although when connected to the Internet, they have many of the same capabilities as a computer. 

Enabling Parental Control settings often gets forgotten, or the possibilities ignored.  Common Sense Media offers 4 pointers for controlling purchases:
  • Turn off the possibility
  • Turn off the grace period
  • Keep your password secret
  • Use gift cards
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