Note to kids: Smurfberries cost real money
Parents have been surprised by large charges on their iTunes account when kids play Smurfs' Village and other games.
Would you pay $99.99 for a wagon of smurfberries?
Or you might be a 4-year-old playing on Mom's iPad.
The game, free to download and play, involves creating a Smurf village from scratch -- building houses and planting and harvesting crops. For a fee, users can speed progress along with the help of smurfberries.
A few weeks ago, parents of kids -- some as young as 4 -- were finding large sums of money charged to their iTunes accounts. Turns out, their savvy little land developers were going on a smurfberries spree, not realizing the coveted virtual currency costs actual money.
Many kids have fallen in love with the iPad or iPod Touch, and parents, wanting to foster that love of technology, are quick to put the devices into their young ones' hands. But a combination of apps with hidden charges, a loophole in iTunes' password policy, and inattentive parents can make for a pricey game-playing experience.
The Smurfs' Village app offers smurfberries by the bucket, bushel, barrel, wheelbarrow, or wagon to users who want the ability to speed up the growth of their village and crops.
A single bucket is just $4.99. But a wagon of smurfberries is almost $100.
With a couple of quick screen taps, the charges are placed on the iTunes account associated with the iPod or iPad. Normally, iTunes requires the user's password before any purchases are made. However, once the password is entered, it's not needed again for 15 minutes, not even to complete a pricey transaction.
This loophole is one children found immediately and many parents didn't until it was too late.
Capcom Interactive Inc., the maker of Smurfs' Village, is now warning consumers of the real-life charges associated with the game, most notably with a pop-up warning when the game is launched.
But plenty other apps for the iPod Touch or iPad are free to download but have in-game purchase options that charge real money and have no pop-up warnings.
Some parents have balked at the 15-minute password-free loophole, but Capcom Interactive and other app makers say they have no control over that.
So, what's a concerned parent to do? First, be wary of free apps. Since the company is not charging anything to download the software, it's going to try to make money somehow. Reading reviews on iTunes and elsewhere online can be helpful, as some of the "upgrades" available are listed with how much they cost.
And while some free apps may offer the ability to disable these pricey upgrades, it's probably safest to assume they can't be and gamers will have to play at their own risk. Even if they're barely in kindergarten.
Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.
Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.
ABOUT SMART SPENDING
LATEST BLOG POSTS
Banks often use sign-up bonuses as a way to get new customers to apply for one of their cards. But are you guaranteed to earn the bonus?
VIDEO ON MSN MONEY
BLOGS WE LIKE
MUST-SEE ON MSN
- Video: Easy DIY smoked meats at home
A charcuterie master shares his process for cold-smoking meat at home.
- Jetpacks about to go mainstream
- Weird things covered by home insurance
- Bing: 70 percent of adults report 'digital eye strain'