In-App iPad Purchases Leads Dad to Charge Son with Fraud

I think this goes into the “you can’t make this stuff up” file: A 13yo boy in England ran up more than $5000 USD (£3700) in online purchases through the App Store through in-app purchases from within iPad games.

So what did his father, a police constable do? When he couldn’t get Apple to void the charges, he turned his son in for fraud.


13yo accused of iTunes fraud
13yo Cameron and his Dad pose with his Apple iPad

Their claim is that the boy had no idea that in-app purchases that cost money actually, well, cost money. “The games were free” he explains, but then he uses examples like one of my favorite iPad games, Plants vs. Zombies HD, which isn’t actually free, but costs $0.99 (and I remember it costing more like $4.99). But surely young Cameron can read, yes? And could say “Hey Dad! Look at this: Is this really costing money?”

Further, I can see claiming that a toddler or young child has no idea about in-app purchases, but a 13yo boy in a school where all the kids have been supplied with iPads and are all going to be comparing notes and talking about favorite games, etc? Not only that, there are now easily accessed controls that let parents disable in-app purchases completely, yet the father, PC Crossan, hasn’t taken any responsibility or even suggested he’s liable for any of this mess.

There’s a core question of at what age do children have to fend for themselves legally, of course, but let’s be honest, at 13 it’s a sure bet that the parents are still liable for the mistakes of the child.

It’s hard to imagine that there’s any positive outcome possible at this point. Dad’s turned in his son for fraud (because then he can dispute the charges with his credit card company, apparently) and the police are now obligated to investigate. And someone has to pay for these purchases, whether they’re digital in-app or whether they’d be tangible objects at a shop down the street. If found guilty, he’s given his son a criminal record for something that’s pretty darn benign — if painful financially — a record that will haunt the young man for the rest of his life.

Then again, Dad’s comment to reporters is “‘Really I just want to embarrass Apple as much as possible. Morally, I just don’t understand where Apple gets off charging for a child’s game.”

It’s called business, PC Crossan, and if you aren’t ready to take responsibility for your son’s actions, if you aren’t able to help him make smart decisions in this new technological age, then perhaps you shouldn’t have allowed the iPad into the house in the first place.

Or then again, perhaps you can also bring suit against your son’s school too, since they apparently neglected to teach him how to avoid those evil in-app purchases, leaving his no-doubt hard-working dad left holding the proverbial bag.

And meanwhile, it’s going to be a tricky thing when you have to explain to young Cameron how you’ve thrown a big monkey wrench into his future because you wanted to embarrass a corporation that’s very much within its rights to stick with the charges already incurred and hopefully cancel the charges with your bank.

That’s my two cents. Read the story here — Policeman Reports 13yo Son for Fraud after running up iTunes bill — and let me know what you think.

3 comments on “In-App iPad Purchases Leads Dad to Charge Son with Fraud

  1. How stupid can you possibly get?

    I’m sure that, as a cop, he’d never let a thirteen year old kid off of a vandalism charge because the kid couldn’t possibly be expected to know that you’re not allowed to destroy other people’s stuff!

    If I was that cop, I’d be embarrassed to go back to work because he’s either too stupid to explain to his son that in-app purchases cost money or too stupid to lock out in-app purchases.

    …. or maybe he just has absolutely no concept himself, in which case he’s probably too stupid to be a cop.

    My two year old knew that in-app purchases cost money before she could even read!

  2. Or, he could have done what we’ve done with our kids’ iPods… The kids each have their own iTunes accounts, and none of them are attached to any source of funds beyond the iTunes gift cards that they can redeem into their accounts. When they get a $10 gift card for their birthday, for example, they can only spend up to that $10. Once that’s gone, they can’t buy anything else.

  3. Any (every!) 13 year old is well aware that in-app purchases cost money. Ridiculous that a policeman is willing to proceed with giving his son a criminal record instead of taking it on the chin. How long does this kid spend a day on the ipad anyway to run up a bill of $5000?!

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