How parents can protect their iPhones from unauthorized and unintentional App Store purchases

DENVER - Parents, have you ever handed a phone to your kids hoping to keep them occupied while you shopped, only to receive a receipt for app purchases your child made while playing a game on your phone?

You’re not alone.

In-app purchases account for 72 percent of app sales. The Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit against Amazon this week, alleging the online retail giant unlawfully billed parents for millions of dollars in children’s unauthorized in-app charges. The FTC is targeting transactions as far back as November 2011, when Amazon introduced in-app extras. Apple faced a similar lawsuit earlier this year and had to pay $32.5 million back to consumers.

So, how can parents prevent in-app purchasing? Is it as simple as not giving out your iTunes password? Consider this: if you buy your child an app—say a spaceship game—she can buy additional games and in-app extras within the next 5 to 10 minutes without needing to know your password.

The good news is that Apple has made it easier than ever to restrict unintentional and unauthorized app purchasing.

The first thing you need to do is enable restrictions. Launch Settings> General> “enable restriction”. Then turn on restrictions for “Installing Apps” and “In-App Purchases”.

This removes the App Store icon from your home screen.


Another option is to create a second iTunes account without any credit card information. Children can use this second account to download free games and apps. Paid apps can be bought by the parent and sent as a gift directly from the App Store.


What do you do if you have unauthorized or unintended purchases on your account? Apple’s policy does not allow the cancelations or refunds, but since their multimillion-dollar settlement earlier this year, they do make exceptions for valid disputes.


Locate the “Report a Problem” link on your iTunes receipt. The link routes you to your purchase history. Select the disputed purchase and follow the prompts. Remember, the terms of service don’t entitle you to a refund, but Apple will respond to legitimate problems.

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