Money in the hands of a Sonic-loving child can only meet one fate: it's going to go fast.
That's the unfortunate lesson learned by a Connecticut mom whose 6-year-old son racked up $16,000 in in-app purchases on the mobile game Sonic Forces. In spite of the fact that Jessica Johnson's son George bought an entry-level car's worth of virtual baubles without her permission, Apple is reportedly not budging on giving her her money back.
The New York Post reports that George Johnson was playing Sonic Forces on his mother's iPad while she worked from home. In July, George found his way to the game's performance-boosting purchases. The possible items range from $1.99 for the game's lowest-level rings to $99.99 to the top-tier gold rings. When George realized he could buy his way into a more fun game, it was off the races. On just a single day, George managed to buy $2,500 worth of add-ons, charging them to Johnson's credit card.
When Johnson noted several bundled payments of several hundred dollars a piece, she contacted her bank. It told her that the charges were likely fraud and she filed a claim on the over $16,000 worth of charges. However, it took them until October to reach a verdict that the charges were legitimate and came from Johnson's own Apple account. At that point, she reached out to Apple. The company walked her through the process of finding the individual purchases made, revealing that they were from her son's Sonic game. When she requested a refund, Johnson was told she had waited too long.
"[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 Post. “The reason I didn’t call within 60 days is because Chase told me it was likely fraud — that PayPal and Apple.com are top fraud charges.”
Johnson said that the customer service reps told her she should have placed parental controls on her phone.
“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,” she said. “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?”
The Connecticut-based realtor explained that she hasn't been paid from her job in nearly eight months due to the pandemic and is struggling to pay her mortgage with these new charges. She claims she went to the press so that other people might avoid being caught unaware.
“Check your security settings," she added. "I’m appalled that this is even possible in these games and that Apple devices are not pre-set to prevent this."