Skip to main content

Boy surprises mom with massive in-app purchase bill

Little George Johnson’s love of Sega’s Sonic Forces ended with his mom staring at a $16,000 bill for in-app purchases.

Jessica Johnson, a real estate broker from Wilton, Connecticut, said her six-year-old son’s shopping spree on the family’s iPad took place in July, though it was only a couple of months ago that she realized what was happening.

As per the New York Post: “George bought add-on boosters — starting with $1.99 red rings and moving up to $99.99 gold rings — that allowed him to access new characters and more speed, spending hundreds of bucks at a time.”

Apple — as well as Google and Amazon — got into trouble a few years back for failing to put enough safeguards in place to prevent children from going on unauthorized shopping expeditions in their respective app stores. Both companies have since enacted a slew of measures that have led to a drastic reduction in such incidents.

So what happened in George’s case? Well, mom Jessica failed to turn on the appropriate settings on her account because, she said, she wasn’t aware of them.

“Obviously, if I had known there was a setting for that, I wouldn’t have allowed my six-year-old to run up nearly $20,000 in charges for virtual gold rings,” Johnson told the Post.

When she first saw various transactions in her account for hundreds of dollars each, Johnson called her bank, but she said that it made no mention of them being linked to a game.

With the payment demands still rolling in, George’s mom later filed a fraud claim with her bank, at which point she was told to get in touch with Apple.

An Apple agent went through a detailed list of all the charges, with Jessica Johnson finally realizing that George was behind the payments.

According to Johnson, Apple wouldn’t give her a refund because such claims need to be made within 60 days of purchase.

“My son didn’t understand that the money was real,” she told the Post. “He’s playing a cartoon game in a world that he knows is not real. Why would the money be real to him? That would require a big cognitive leap.”

Digital Trends has reached out to Apple for its response to the incident and we will update this piece when we hear back.

Jessica Johnson’s error in not turning on the appropriate settings is a reminder for all parents to check that their mobile devices are properly set up to avoid getting the shock of their lives with their next credit card bill.

Digital Trends has step-by-step guides on how to turn off in-app purchases for iPhone and iPad devices, and also Android devices.

Editors' Recommendations

Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
Apple is updating one of the oldest apps on your iPhone
The Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max and iPhone 14 Pro showing the screens.

Apple iPhone 14 Pro (left) and iPhone 15 Pro Max Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Apple has updated one of its original iPhone apps, the Clock app, in the first iOS 17.4 beta. Specifically, the update includes a small, but significant change to the Stopwatch function.

Read more
A big change is coming to the iPhone — but only for some people
A person holding the Apple iPhone 15 Plus.

Big changes are coming to the iPhone this year. On January 25, Apple announced a slew of changes coming to iOS — including the ability to sideload applications and download apps from alternative/third-party app stores.

These are things you've been able to do on Android for years, but have long been absent from the iPhone. The Play Store is the primary way to download apps on Android, but you can also manually download APK files from any website that has them available. Similarly, you can use alternative app stores like the Samsung Galaxy Store and Amazon App Store. When iOS 17.4 releases later this year, iPhone users will finally be able to do similar things.

Read more
I controlled this smart plant with my iPhone and I’m in love
Fluora Mini in a hallway.

I’ll be honest with you — I don’t have much of a green thumb. I’ve tried to keep flowers alive for at least a week when I am gifted them, but they don’t seem to last more than a few days. I’ve tried to keep the front lawn of my house watered, but that doesn’t always happen every day due to me doing everything else that needs to get done and just being tired.

I do love having plants for decor, but again, dead plants don’t look great. That’s why I tend to lean toward fake plants because, well, they aren’t alive to begin with, but they certainly look the part.

Read more