BBC on Friday published a story highlighting how a five-year-old managed to make in-app purchases worth £1,700 (approx. $2500), minutes after downloading the game called Zombies vs. Ninjas, from Apple’s App Store.
The 5-year-old had asked his parents to enter the password so that he could download the free game from iPad’s App Store. Danny’s parents keyed in the password and allowed him to play the game, so that they could snatch some peaceful moments in order to attend the guests that have arrived at their U.K home.
However, they did not have the slightest glimpse of their champ’s prodigious intentions. Young Danny just wanted to kill the zombies, and so he ordered additional “darts” and “bombs”, weapons that were priced as high as $99.00 in the in-app purchase menu. He, presumably, purchased lots of weapons, and the final amount was a humungous £1,700.
His mother, Sharon Kitchen, received 19 iTunes emails the following morning. She, however, assumed that the same receipt was sent multiple times, and turned a blind eye towards the gravity of the receipts.
It was only when her credit card company called her about the suspicious activity that she sprang into action.
Talking to Mashable, she mentions that she’s surprised how his son managed to do it. She said that he had the iPad for hardly 15 minutes. She never suspected that he was doing anything wrong.
Of course, little Danny got a scolding from his parents after the whole issue was highlighted.
“He was reprimanded and told off, but he was crying,” Sharon explains. “He realized there were going to be consequences and I said, ‘You better run and hide,’ and he says, ‘But mommy, where shall I hide?’ I felt so sorry for him and couldn’t be mad.”
The Kitchens asked Apple to investigate the issue. Having investigated the issue for three days, Apple finally concluded that the incident was a mistake and refunded the full amount to their account. However, they asked them to be careful with their passwords.
Apple’s iOS 4.3 and above have more stringent parental controls to deal with such accidental lapses. Apple gave the Kitchens a step-to-step tutorial on how to effectively use parental controls.
Quite apparently, the parents were also unaware of the 15-minute window. iOS 4.3 and less allow users to begin purchases from the in-app menu within 15 minutes of downloading the app. However, in 2011, Apple tweaked the parental controls, and forced users to enter the password the second time when in-app purchases are made.
So, next time, your child asks you for your iPhone/iPad password, think twice. Your urge to snatch away some peaceful moments might be too heavy on your pocket. Though Apple refunded the money to the Kitchens citing the innocuousness of the incident, you cannot expect Apple to salvage you every time, especially when you’re the one who’s entering the password.
In case you own an iPad/iPhone, and you’re wondering where on earth are the parental controls, just navigate to Settings > General > Restrictions. You can allow/disallow in-app purchases, and you can also force a password prompt every time an in-app purchase is made. The only way to mitigate such incidents is to be aware of such controls, and to understand what your child wants every time he/she asks your password.