I don’t really know what made me check my credit card statement online that day, but I cannot tell you how glad I am that I did so. Glancing at the balance, I noticed that it was a bit higher than normal. Trying to think back through the past month’s happenings, I knew that any purchases related to our family vacation to California were on the last statement.
Clicking on the details, I realized what the problem was. Someone continuously used our credit card to purchase 4 pages worth of iTunes items. 4 pages?! The charges ranged from $4.97 through $99.97 and all within an 8 day period. My initial reaction was that someone confiscated our card. I printed the bank statement and ran downstairs to my husband’s office to fill him in on all of this.
We both looked at each other and thought the same thing, “It couldn’t have been our son, right?” I mean, his iPad has my credit card attached to it – a requirement when setting up an iCloud account and being able to download apps (free or otherwise). It all started to fall into place. There was one particular game that has been the game of choice for my sons and their buddies and there had been a lot of talk and requests for “gems”. Gems are needed to purchase items – you can earn them or you can buy them. We would customarily gift them to the boys when they received accolades from school, or in lieu of cash for their allowance. The boys would ask us for them, we would then enter in the password required, and the gems would instantly appear in their account.
One of my little angels apparently decided not to ask us permission, and went on a shopping spree, per say, purchasing $1,354 worth of gems. Yep – you read that right. $1,354. I added up the charges from my bank statement, with my jaw dropping lower and lower after each entry. I could blame the credit card company, that they didn’t recognize this insane amount of charges happening in a short period of time – but they call me when they think my monthly karate school dues charge is “suspect”. I could blame iTunes for not raising a red flag and sending out an email correspondence alerting me to this.
But I can’t blame anyone but myself.
I trusted him. Prior to this, he would ask before buying any in-app purchases. When we sat him down with the printed out statement, we calmly asked him, “Do you know about all of these charges to our credit card?” His head immediately went down and he admitted to all of them. He didn’t realize what he was getting himself into. He didn’t know how much he was actually spending. It was like a “gem high”.
Long story short, we took away his electronics for 2 months. He had to pay back the money he spent on the gems. We called iTunes to see if there was anything they could do to help us with this huge charge.
We relived the situation on the phone with the iTunes representative. Thankfully (so thankfully), they helped us out AND taught us how to better secure against this ever happening again. Here’s what you can do:
Enable Parental Restrictions
It takes all of 5 minutes and will save you a lot of heartache later on. I promise.
Don’t tell your kids the password AND also set it to ‘Immediately’. This requires you to enter your password for each and every purchase attempt. For example, you are on the iPad and you purchase a song. Then, 2 minutes later your little man grabs it to play a game and wants to buy some (eek) gems. Your password would need to be entered again. (Other options would be 15 minutes or longer, but that’s not good.)
Remove your Apple ID Payment Information
- Go to Settings –> App and iTunes Store –>Apple ID –>View Apple ID
- Go to Payment Information. Select “None”.
- Press “Done”.
This was a HUGE lesson learned on our part. Once our little hacker gets his electronics back, and wants to purchase some in-app purchase, he will have to use an earned iTunes gift card.
I hope this helps you never have to go through this “experience”. Have you ever been through anything like this? How did you handle it?