10-year-old spends $1,600 buying 'gems' with an app for kids

Dec 17, 2014 at 9:00 a.m. ET

When Angella Dykstra sat down to pay her bills, the last thing she expected to see was pages of pages of iTunes charges. The grand total? $1,681.52. Thinking she'd been hacked, Dykstra immediately called Apple.

The helpful service representative quickly ruled out hacking and pinned down the charges to Dykstra's 10-year-old son's account. "My other two kids don't have my credit card in their iPods, so I think I had added it to my son's account buy a game and missed deleting it," says Dykstra.

Dykstra's son, who is always very careful with money, was shocked when he heard the total amount of money charged. "He completely broke down in tears," says Dykstra, who assured her son she understood it was an honest mistake.

After getting a supervisor's approval, the customer service rep was able to reverse the charges. Dykstra felt Apple's rep did an amazing job handling the situation. "She could hear my son crying and me comforting him, and told me to tell him that it would all be OK," says Dykstra.

Dykstra shared the story on Facebook. "After posting about it, I heard many stories from people who were in a similar situation and Apple reversed their charges," she says.

Her son used his iPod and Clash of Clans to make the purchases. Dykstra doesn't feel like the game made it adequately clear that real money would be used to make in-app purchases. "He could just click and get 'gems,'" she says. "There was no notice of what they would cost."

Apple will provide refunds for purchases made without parental consent, but the best defense is making sure kids don't have buying capabilities. Take a few minutes to learn how to protect your personal information and finances from being compromised by games and apps for kids. It could save you — and your children — a big headache.

More on technology and kids

How technology has changed parenting
The best math apps for kids
The best iPad apps for children with autism