A distraught mother recently got the shock of her life when she discovered that over $16,000 was used by her 6-year-old son to purchase add-ons in Sega’s Sonic Forces. The in-app purchases, done on Apple’s App Store, used up the better part of what Jessica Johnson, a resident of Wilton, Connecticut, wanted to use to pay for her mortgage.
The 6-year-old boy, George, who spent $16,293.10 on virtual games, started purchasing add-ons for the game “Sonic Forces” in July, while the family was home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At first, George’s mother thought her Chase Bank account had been hacked since she kept getting charges from PayPal and Apple. She later discovered that George was using the money to get in-app purchases in form of gold rings to advance his progress in the game.
According to Apple, George started with purchases of add-ons valued at $1.99, then moved to purchases worth $100. On some days, he made more than one purchase, racking up more than $2,500 of withdrawals on his mother’s credit card on July 9. After getting the “almost impossible” charges, Johnson approached her bank to file a fraud claim but officials told her that the transactions were genuine NYPost reports.
She reached out to Apple to complain about the charges. After she was shown a list containing the charges withdrawn from her account on Sonic Forces purchases, she got to know that her son was behind the purchases.
“It seemed to me like he suddenly discovered cocaine, and he started with small hits and kept going bigger and bigger,” Johnson said, clearly still shocked.
Apple was obviously not of much help to the distraught mother. After she was shown the evidence of her son’s shopping spree, she was told the money could not be refunded since she did not contact them within 60 days after she started noticing the charges. Johnson alleged that the customer support at Apple was very cold and unsupportive. The support told her that she should have known about her son’s activities on the game through the settings available on the game.
Johnson concedes that she should have been more careful in avoiding such gigantic billings from video games by setting up the child lock; but claims that she was not aware before she was told by Apple, that such a setting was available on the App Store.
“If I had, known I could avoid such a situation,” Johnson said. “I definitely wouldn’t have allowed my son to use up almost $20,000 to purchase virtual gold rings.”
She also accuses the games of urging young users to spend, knowing fully well that they would not know the significance of what they were doing. She explained that it is almost impossible for an adult to spend $100 to purchase “imaginary gold coins” but children would stop at nothing to keep playing the game, just like her son has demonstrated.
Apple has some controls that can help curb such occurrence and have tried to educate parents on how they can stop their children from spending so outrageously on game power-ups. Parents can limit the amounts their children spend on in-app purchases or stop them from accessing certain apps.