5 year old racks up $100s on 'free' iPhone app

7:13 PM, Dec 28, 2011   |    comments
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Zachary Beegle

RESCUE, CA - A kindergartener who was smart enough to download a free iPhone app is still a bit unclear on the difference between real and virtual money.

Zachary Beegle, 5, got his mother's permission to download the popular MyTown2 game from the Apple App Store Nov. 11. 

Lisa Beegle also authorized Zachary to charge $1.99 to her debit card for a stack of virtual coins to play the Monopoly-like game.

"It's all pretend money," Zachary explained.

While Zachary was busy spending his pretend money, he was also clicking a button to refill his MyTown2 coffer with real money from the debit card.

Zachary's parents were unaware the game cost them more than the initial $1.99 until they received online receipts from the App Store for charges totalling $450.

Rob Beegle said all the subsequent charges were made without his son having to re-enter his mom's iTunes password.

"I think it's brilliant marketing," Beegle said.  "Unfortunately, it's taking advantage of a lot of people."

Beegle said Apple reluctantly refunded the $450 after he explained to a supervisor that he makes his living testifying in court as an expert witness on cybercrimes.

News10 did not get an immediate response seeking comment from Apple or from San Francisco-based Booyah, the developer of MyTown2.

According to Apple's iPhone app developer guidelines, software must require users to enter their iTunes password each time they make an in-app purchase if more than 15 minutes has elapsed since the last charge.

The guidelines apply to iPhone operating system iOS 4.3 and later.  Rob Beegle said Zachary was using an older iPhone when he racked up the charges.

Zachary is no longer allowed to play MyTown2, but Santa Claus brought him a consolation present on Christmas Day.  The new Leap Pad gaming device does not connect to the Internet.

by George Warren, GWarren@news10.net 


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