Over a series of months in mid-2020, a six-year-old spent over $16,000 in the App Store, on in-app purchases for the iPad version of Sega’s “Sonic Forces.”
Jessica Johnson of Wilton, CT. discovered a series of withdrawals made from her credit card over a series of months, posted by Apple’s in-app purchasing system. The purchases were made by her youngest son, George, who was repeatedly acquiring in-game currency for the game Sonic Forces.
A six-year-old spent $16K on iPad game in-app purchases
The $16,293.10 spending spree took place over a series of months starting in July when George started buying add-ons in the game, starting from a $1.99 pack to $99.99 bundles, as reported by the New York Post.
Initially, Johnson believed that the transactions were a mistake or fraudulent, and found it “almost impossible” to figure out that they originated from in-app purchases. After filing a fraud claim, she was informed the charges were genuine and was told to contact Apple.
After contacting Apple and being shown a “buried running list of all the charges” and seeing the Sonic icon, she realized the charges were made by her six-year-old son. “It’s like my 6-year-old was doing lines of cocaine – and doing bigger and bigger hits,” Johnson said.
The tech company refused to refund her money since she did not inform Apple within 60 days of the charges. Johnson says that she didn’t tell Apple on time because she believed the charges were likely to be fraudulent.
When Johnson admitted she wouldn’t have been able to make a mortgage payment to an Apple Support representative, the support person reportedly told her that “there’s a setting, you should have known.”
When initially setting up the account, the Johnson family had to bypass defaults set in place for the account and in-app purchase verification for this to happen, without the child knowing the family iCloud account credentials. Johnson admits she did not take extra precautions to secure the account, but claims 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,” Jessica added. The mother then went on to accuse the games of being “completely predatory” in promoting spending to younger users. “What grown-up would spend $100 on a chest of virtual gold coins?” she said.