Shock charges: Gary and Kitty Rycroft, with your phone
Like many 13-year-olds, Kitty Rycroft receives a modest monthly allowance from her parents and money from her grandparents at Christmas and on her birthday.
Her father, Gary, programmed a Halifax account a year ago to help her manage her money.
He gives her £ 15 a month, which she tends to spend on New Look clothes, cosmetics and ice cream Starbucks.
Kitty likes to buy but spends within her means, according to Gary, 46, a Lancashire lawyer.
Then, when his bank statement arrived in May, he could not understand how his balance had dropped from £ 249 to just £ 48 in three months.
When she looked more closely, Kitty saw that ten payments between £ 6.99 and £ 13.98 had been made to iTunes, Apple's online store.
He remembered using a smartphone application in February that allowed him to create music on his iPhone. But he thought that the application was free and eliminated it after a few days.
Kitty, who was 12 years old at the time, did not realize that she had signed up for a paid subscription.
And because the details of her Halifax Express cash account, targeting children 11 to 17 years old, were stored in iTunes, the money could be taken without her entering any payment information.
It was only after Money Mail intervened that Apple agreed to reimburse the total amount of £ 133.83 to Kitty.
Their story is a warning to parents about how easy it is for businesses to help themselves with money in children's bank accounts without them noticing, and that unusual payments are not picked up by banks. .
Kitty, who plays drums, discovered the Beat Maker Go app through an ad on Snapchat, a popular picture messaging service among teens.
Snapchat targets users with ads based on their interests. It has more than 12 million daily users in the United Kingdom, approximately a quarter of which are under 18 years of age.
Users must be 13 or older, but Kitty was able to open an account despite having only 12.
Not to mention the prices in the ad, Kitty assumed that the application was free. She clicked on a link that took her to the Apple iTunes App Store and downloaded it.
Once it was installed, you were instructed to enter your email address to set up an account.
Jordan Swain of Swain Brands, a digital campaign agency, says companies are increasingly using social media to target teenagers (stock image)
Kitty used the email address linked to her Apple ID account, which she rarely checks. You need one of these to use an iPhone.
Users can keep their bank details stored in their Apple ID account so they can buy apps or music.
But Kitty says she would never pay for an application. Like her friends, she simply uses free social networking services on her phone, such as Snapchat, or plays games.
There is no indication of Beat Maker Go charges until you scroll to the bottom of the page in the App Store.
How to keep children safe
- Set up parental controls on your child's smartphone to block or restrict purchases from the application and block any transaction.
- On an iPhone, go to & # 39; Settings & # 39 ;, & # 39; General & # 39 ;, then & # 39; Restrictions & # 39 ;. Touch & # 39; Enable restrictions & # 39; Create an access code You can also set a PIN on Android and BlackBerry phones.
- Some applications allow you to control the sites your children can visit. NetNanny, for example, scans websites to determine if they are appropriate, based on the preferences you set when you install the application.
Users are presented with a confusing price list.
For example, & # 39; Total access to the features of Pro & # 39; appears six times, but the cost ranges from £ 1.79 to £ 35.99.
Gismart, the application's manufacturer, says that this list includes weekly, monthly, annual and lifetime payment plans.
Although she eliminated the application a few days later, Kitty received a charge of £ 6.99 per week once the trial ended.
She was not aware of this until her bank statement arrived three months later.
She says: & # 39; I thought, woah! Where did the money go? My father said he should have been more careful. But I honestly thought it was a free application. "
Gary says he is interested in what his daughter is doing online, but also wants to give him freedom.
He says: "I did not like how easy it is for companies to take money out of children without them realizing it. It's scary."
The Rycrofts went to their local Halifax branch, which told them to raise the problem with iTunes.
But Gary had trouble finding an email or mailing address for iTunes. When he tried to phone them, he says he was kept on hold and had trouble passing.
When Money Mail contacted iTunes on behalf of the Rycrofts, it agreed to reimburse the total amount of £ 133.83, which included additional payments.
Tony Neate of Get Safe Online, the cybersecurity initiative, says: "I find it incredibly disturbing that companies can bury the fees and charges that kids will not see.
"They know that children will not go deeply into the terms and conditions because many adults do not."
Jordan Swain of Swain Brands, a digital campaign agency, says companies are increasingly using social media to target teenagers.
"Costs may not be announced in such a short space, but offers like 'free trials' should be made absolutely explicit," he says.
Gary says he's going to help Kitty set up online banking, so she can verify her account whenever she needs it.
He also plans to put protections on his phone to allow him to control any expenses online. Kitty has now removed her banking information from her iTunes account.
Halifax says he has "strict controls" & # 39; in all your current accounts to protect customers from unauthorized transactions.
iTunes says that Beat Maker Go notifications when you buy add-ons and sends receipts by email.
However, it recognizes that Kitty may not have received notifications if this feature was disabled on her phone.
Gismart, the maker of Beat Maker Go, insists that it always sets prices and that subscriptions start with a free trial and users can unsubscribe at any time. He says he does not cheat the users.
A spokesperson adds: "To access any subscription or free trial, users must enter credit card information and they are clearly notified that charges will be made accordingly.
"We adhere to all of the legal policies of the Apple App Store and Google Play, as well as FTC's advertising laws."
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