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Apple Customer Urges Ban On Credit Card Bait Apps

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In January, game developer Pocket Gems announced it had its first multi-million dollar month. Racking up 18 million downloads of only five apps -- including Tap Farm, Tap Zoo, and Tap Jungle -- Pocket Gems' rampant success earned the attention of financier Sequoia Capital -- which threw $5 million at the growing company.

In a company press release, Pocket Gems boasted, "All of Pocket Gems' games have topped Apple's App Store charts. Recent hit Tap Zoo continues to rank as one of the highest grossing apps since its launch in September 2010, a rare feat for a free-to-play product."

Yeah, it's certainly impress-... Wait. "Free-to-play product?" Then how did it become "one of the highest grossing apps" for the App Store?

The answer: in-app purchases.

Similar to the agricultural juggernaut FarmVille, the kid-friendly simulator that allows players to create and cultivate their own zoo. In addition to unlocking animals and other items through achievements, stars and coins can be purchased through the credit card linked to the App Store. A bucket of stars runs $19 while a bucket of coins costs an astounding $99. The Washington Post's Cecilia King related a tale of how this feature can get out of hand if left to a child's whims.

"In two days, eight-year-old Leyla Ulku collected tigers, sea turtles and giraffes on the iPhone game Tap Zoo to build her one-animal pen into a vast safari park. She also amassed a shocking $150 bill from Apple," King wrote.

While in-app purchases require a password from the user, kids have a 15-minute window of free star-bucket reign after it's been entered in by their parents. In Leyla's case, however, she administered her junior hacking skills and took a shot in the dark.

Her dad weighed in. "It was our mistake in that she knew our password, but it feels like a scam because it was so easy for her to buy things at prices that shouldn't be in a child's game."

But this isn't an isolated case. In an Australian Apple message board, one user reported another case -- only on a much, much grander scale.

"I have been charged $1000 for my daughter's 1 hour Tap Zoo game! This was supposed to be a free apps [sic] but it is not!!! Take care and avoid this scam!"

Looks like the iPad isn't the perfect babysitter it was cracked up to be.

Instances like these have become so prevalent that frustrated user Tobias Egede Feldt started a Facebook group urging Apple to ban these "credit card bait apps," or as he also referred to them, "hustler apps."

"I hope that this group will gather enough members to draw the attentions of the Apple top management, and help Apple find the right path to long lasting customer loyalty when it comes down to the AppStore," the page reads.

King reminds parents to be aware of apps that have access to your credit card -- especially when handing off your iPad to individuals who have yet to learn the concept of money. She includes directions on how to prevent $99 star buckets from being purchased in the future.

How to turn off in-app purchases:
1. Go to Settings
2. Select Restrictions
3. Enter four-digit security passcode
4. On Restrictions screen, go to In App Purchases toward bottom
5. Turn to Off

(See also: Man Who Paid $335K for Virtual Property Is Virtually Insane)
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.