Internet Scam Warning: Son2’s £280 iTunes bill

Parents Beware: My app-ortunistic son managed to innocently purchase adds-on to his FREE game without a password – arrrrghhh!

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Hungry Shark Evolution: There was no indication in the game that he was being charged for any of the clicks

It’s a Dubai problem, I know, but due to our compound pool springing a leak (think: standing in the middle literally paddling) the facility closed just after the Easter school holiday started, and is due to reopen the day after the kids go back.

Timing, eh!

To be honest, my boys weren’t too concerned: they just got busy doing the thing they do best – leaving their smeary fingerprints all over their iPads. Which was all very well until I got an email from my mum saying she’d been contacted by Barclaycard Fraud Squad.

I should explain: my boys and my mother share an iTunes account; it’s her credit card that gets billed. I’m the gatekeeper and my mum is in the lucky position of receiving, overnight, any apps we download. Son2 is convinced that his grandmother must LOVE playing with his Lego Batman app over her cornflakes.

In her email, my mum asked: “Have the boys sussed the password?” The fraud squad were querying two items from iTunes: one to Hungry Shark (Son2’s favourite game this week) for £79.99 and another for £39.99.

A cacophony of alarm bells clashed horribly in my head.

I questioned Son2 immediately. What’s the password, I asked? A tiny, thin line appeared between his eyebrows.

“Is it L – A …” His voice trailed off, and I could tell that was all he knew.

“We know your phone password, Mum,” interrupted Son1, “because you say it when you type it in.”

“OK, something’s not right here,” I said, blowing the air from my cheeks and making a mental note to myself: Change phone password and don’t absentmindedly tell them this time.

Within minutes, the extent of the strange Hungry Shark charges had got worse: there were TWO payments of £79.99 that day, and one of £39.99, plus another £79.99 on 29 March, and I was still questioning Son2 as to how the hell this had happened.

I watched as his face quickly ran through a gamut of emotions, the initial denial giving way first to guilt – Am I in deep trouble? – and then to indignance. His eyes darted round the room as Son1 helpfully mentioned that his brother had indeed acquired every single shark in the sea: magalodon; hammerhead; mako.

“But how?” I asked.

Son2 shrugged. “I clicked on 20 gems, and it gave me 2,000,” he said quietly, and then burst into loud, upset tears.

And, you know what, as I hadn’t put the password in for him, and I’d confirmed he didn’t know it, the damn game must have racked up that bill all by itself, whether due to a scam or a bug. £279.96! Wtf?

The good news is iTunes refunded the lot (three cheers to Apple!) and Son2 is now the envy of all his wide-eyed friends for having got to the highest level of the game, with the highest number of sharks.

But you can imagine my horror, when the next morning Son1, ever the tittle-tattle, told me: “Guess what Mum!” He grinned widely. “… All his sharks have had babies!”

TIP: Go to Settings, iTunes & App Store, Password Settings and Always Require should be ticked. (Do it now! Son2’s iPad was already set up like this, so we’ve still no idea what happened…sigh!)