Thursday, May 19, 2011

Don't be Smurfed! Beware of in-App Purchases

UPDATE 6/12/2015: Since this post was originally posted in 2011, both Google and Apple have improved their online stores to warn users that apps have in-game purchases.  Nothing like losing some court cases and refunding millions of dollars to get a company to change.  But parents should keep their passwords safe and ensure the settings are secure so that in-app purchases must be approved.

When is a Free Game not free?

When you can buy in-app items that cost real money.  Your money.

To the shock of many users, free games, downloaded from iTunes onto mobile phones, allow users to purchase items for the games from within the application itself.

Many parents have received unexpected and costly iTune charges because they allowed their children to use their iPhone or iPods with the mistaken belief that these games were "free".

This problem is not just limited to Apple devices.  But the iPhone devices and the iTunes store have made the headlines.

A well-documented story appeared in MSNBC late last year and involved the iPhone game "The Smurf's Village.

While The Smurfs Village is indeed "free" to download, items within the game can cost.  Especially, apparently, smurfberries.  At $59 a pop for a cart.

So what can you do?

  1. Update your iPhone, iPod or iPad to the latest version of the iOS operating system.  This updated version requires the iTunes to be re-entered before an in-app purchase can be made.
  2. Keep your iTunes password safe from other users.
  3. Go to Settings, General and change the In App option to not allow purchases within applications.
  4. Always read the notices before you download an application from the iTunes store.  And open it again to read any notices about the option to purchase in-app items.

So with a little knowledge and common sense, you can avoid being smurfed!

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