Like so many others, Jessica Johnson is suffering financially because of the pandemic. The Wilton, Conn., real estate broker tells the New York Post that her income is down by 80% this year. So she certainly couldn't afford the $16,293 in video game upgrades that her young son, George, purchased over the summer while playing Sonic Forces on her iPad as she worked from home in the next room. "It's like my 6-year-old was doing lines of cocaine—and doing bigger and bigger hits," she says. It started with George buying "red rings" for $1.99 each; soon, he was purchasing "gold rings" for $99.99 a pop. When Johnson finally noticed unitemized withdrawals from her Chase account, she suspected fraud and filed a claim with the bank.
In October, Chase told her she was on the hook for the charges and advised her to contact Apple. Their response: "Tough," Johnson recalled, "because I didn't call within 60 days of the charges." But when it comes to online purchases, unauthorized charges fall in a gray area. "Some credit card companies define unauthorized charges as charges made after your card has been lost or stolen, meaning that if your kids make purchases on your card without your knowledge, you are still liable for the charges," an expert tells CNBC. In Johnson's case, George has offered to pay his mother back. "How?" she says. "I pay him $4 to clean his room. I literally told George, 'I don't know about Christmas.'" Johnson advises parents to check the security settings on their devices. (Here, Forbes offers a primer on kids making in-app purchases.)