Parents, do your kids spend too much time playing games on their phones? Or do you perhaps? We all like to be entertained and it is a good way to kill time while waiting with nothing to do, that is assuming you have some downtime. You probably have your favorite one as well and you might have been able to download it for free too, a bonus! There is a reason you were able to get it for free and you need to be cautious because there could be serious consequences if you do not pay attention to it.

In-game Purchases

First off, no, this has nothing to do with malware or anything like that so breathe a bit easier. You have probably noticed that a good number of games are available for free but they come with paid upgrades in the game to improve gameplay or to unlock parts of the game. The developer of the game put a lot of time into it and they do deserve to make some money and by pursuing this model they can potentially make a lot more than by just selling the game for a set price.

The problem is that the account is often tied to a person’s credit card or bank account. Now when you see the option to upgrade you know that and you know where the money is coming from. Your kids might not be as concerned. One small upgrade might go unnoticed but that can spiral out of control. 

So How Bad Can This Get?

The BBC ran a story about a British man buying FIFA ‘19 for his kid’s Nintendo Switch. He also bought a player pack for £8 but unbeknownst to him his child saw how he did it. £550 later his bank account was emptied and he only realized what had happened when his card was declined. The man neglected to set up a special PIN to secure the account and all purchase confirmations were sent to an old email address. The kids, all of whom were under the age of 10, didn’t understand what they were doing and were sorry when told.

It was worse for another British family. They are the parents of a child with cerebral palsy and several learning disabilities. Because the child is not able to do much in the way of physical activity he likes to play games on his iPad and enjoys the game Hidden Artifacts. He enjoyed it so much that he racked up £3,160 in charges, cleaning out the child’s life savings and there are plenty of other stories like that

Parents Are Concerned

When it comes to certain computer parts like ink or toner it is often joked that the company should give you the printer because ink is so expensive. While that has not been happening with printers we are seeing it now with games and apps. It has become a major concern not only in the EU but also in the US. Parents are not only worried about how much money is being spent on in-game purchases but also that it is being done without their knowledge.

This has led some to question the ethics of some of these purchases. In the FIFA ‘19 example the player packs provided an elite player that the gamer could use. The problem is that the player was unknown until the purchase was made. In-game purchases like these have also had their legality questioned and even being banned in Belgium

Know How To Stop Purchases

So, what can be done? The companies that make the games do provide security measures and recommend that parents not only keep this information from kids but to also talk to them about this subject so they understand. Settings can also be adjusted on each platform so purchases cannot be made without a password or just disabled outright. 

And of course it is not just games. Social media platforms have had their issues with this as well, with one child racking up $6,500 in purchases on Facebook games alone. These bait apps are a great source of revenue for these companies and led to a class action lawsuit that led to the issuing of millions of dollars in refunds

Talk To Your Child

Who bears responsibility is another matter? Of course the parents need to be more conscious about these games and guard their account information much better. They also need to be able to talk to their kids about this so that they understand, something that seems to be going on less and less these days. If that is done properly there will be far fewer issues and many more parents’ bank accounts will be safer, regardless of how hard (or easy) it is to make an in-game purchase.

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