Schemes & Rip Offs: App Trap - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Schemes & Rip Offs: App Trap

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If you have a smart phone chances are you have a game or two on it.

Many are free to download and play, but most also try to get you to buy upgrades.  And if you're not careful that free game can cost you a lot of cash.

Johner Riehl found out the hard way; there's no such thing as free lunch.  His young son racked up more than $100 in charges on a free iPhone game called "Smurf's Village."

"A 50 dollar barrel of smurfberries, a 30 dollar barrel and a 20 dollar barrel. and it all added up real quick," Riehl said.  "Why would anyone pay 50 dollars for something called smurfberries."

There was a warning that those smurfberries were going to cost real money, but computer expert Murray Jennex says it's easy for children to blur the distinction between virtual money and real money and that works right into the hands of clever game makers.

"Well you get it for free initially but free is kind of fun, it's when you start buying the tools and the software and the clothes and the uniforms and dressing like all your other competitors. That's what really makes it fun. So that's where the free changes into a cost."

Johner Riehl now runs a website that reviews kid's video games.  It lets parents know how they can keep their children from falling for those subtle charges.

Riehl says the first thing you need to look for are the parental controls. Those let you turn off the in-app purchases completely so you don't have to worry about it.

You should also limit your exposure when signing up, instead of linking a game or app to your credit card, paypal account or phone number try using a fixed price itunes gift card.

And then there's simply having that talk, educate your kids that anything they see as dollars or chips or points, is real money.

The makers of the "Smurf's Village" app said in an e-mail they do not have any *intention* of taking advantage of children and have added a number of features and messages to warn that the berries cost *real* money.

But if you do find an unfamiliar charge on your credit card for smurfberries or something else you didn't expect, fight it.  In Riehl's case he was able to get the charges dropped.

How To: Turn off in-app purchases on Apple products

Digital TrendsBy Scott Younker | Digital Trends – Tue, Dec 6, 2011

There a tons of apps for the Apple iPhone and the iPod Touch. Some of them let you purchase additional content — generally these are games like Angry Birds. The content can be more levels, character designs in games or added functionality or expansions. Not all but most apps with additional content for purchase let you buy from inside the app. 

Unfortunately, some of apps aren't as up front about or make it really easy to accidentally purchase in-app content. One of the more controversial apps that this occurred in was the Smurfs game Smurfs' Village. Kids played the game on their parents' iPhone, Touch or iPad and were unknowingly purchasing tons of stuff. 

With a few simple steps we'll help you ensure that in-app purchases aren't made unless you absolutely want them. 

1. Turn on your Apple product. From the home screen tap the Settings app. Inside Settings tap "General".

2. About halfway down the page you should see the label "Restrictions". Tap the "Enable Restrictions" button.

3. Once the enable button has been tapped you'll be asked to set a passcode. The passcode is a password that locks certain functions on your iOS device. Make sure that the passcode is something that you'll remember. Remember not to share it with people that you don't want making purchases on your product. Enter the passcode twice to set it.

4. Now that you have a passcode, scroll down to the "Allowed Content" section. 

5. Slide the in-app purchases slider to Off. By doing this you will prevent people who don't know the passcode from making in-app purchases.


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