Do you let your child play with your tablet or smartphone? Did you know that inside some games are power-ups and special items that cost real money, even if the game itself was free to download? They're called in-app purchases and they can cost you a bundle if you aren't careful.
Danny Kitchen, a 5-year-old boy living in the UK, managed to rack up $2,500 worth of in-app purchases in 15 minutes back in March. And a set of 7-year-old twins in Canada left their mom a $3,000 bill for in-app purchases in the popular game "Clash of Clans."
In fact, earlier this year Apple settled a class-action suit made by parents contending it was too easy to unwittingly make real-life purchases in the virtual world. Parents who think they are due a refund can contact Apple. The deadline to submit a claim is Jan. 13, 2014.
But it's up to parents to take extra steps to keep their bank accounts safe.
Often times, the games themselves are free -- and what parent says no to a free game? But hidden within are in-app purchases that cost real dollars. And not all in-app purchases require a password, especially if one was recently entered. (The password is stored for about 15 minutes after it was entered, so it does not need to be entered repeatedly. This window is where many of the purchases are made.)
In-app purchases can cost as little as $0.99 or as much as $99.99 for a single purchase, making it easy for these items to add up. And often times, the games make it difficult to advance without making real dollar purchases.
But there are ways to prevent the in-app purchases altogether. (Any parent that allows their children to play games on their tablet or smartphone, take note.)
If you have an Apple devices like an iPad, iTouch or iPhone:
- Go to the Settings app.
- Scroll down to General.
- Select "Enable Restrictions."
- Enter a passcode and scroll to "Allowed Content."
- Toggle the in-app purchases item to "off"
If you have an Android device, there is no way to turn off in-app purchases, but a layer of security can be added.
- Open the Google Play app.
- Press on the Menu icon in the top right corner of the home page and open up Settings.
- Scroll down to User Controls.
- Select the Use Pin for Purchase option. (This may require setting a PIN if the option is grayed-out.)
If you also download Android apps from Amazon:
- Open the Amazon Appstore app.
- Select Menu and then press Settings.
- Tap on Parental Controls. Select Enable Parental Controls.
- Enter your Amazon password. (You can choose to use a PIN instead.)
The main thing to remember is never share your PIN or passwords. Even with your children. That, ultimately, protects your privacy and your finances.