In-app purchase scam – Mustang Tuning Crash

This evening I happened to look at a couple of incoming emails from my apple account, to be greated by two in app purchases of £34.99 and £99.99. Having a family of apple users and not being able to do sub accounts we tend to run all the devices on 1 account. The predlets are very good about asking for downloads, plus they don’t have the app store password. So things seemed to be ok until these invoices.
It appears that an app called Mustang Tuning Crash was the culprit. It seemed to have been a top down simple racer, aimed at kids and casual gamers. However it appeared to have an in game app purchase delux version that clearly one of the predlets hit the menu option for. At no point was there any password challenge, just instead “unlocking” something or other for nearly £100.
I have no idea how anything like this ended up on the apple website given they apparently strict submission procedures.
The apparent developer of this has a number of kids style games many with in app purchases. I have no idea if this is a rogue app that the developer has been hacked or is a deliberate rip off or a loop hole in the rules.
Apple responded offering a refund, though I replied I was more concerned the rip off was sorted out. I had already contacted my credit card company and so my card was now cancelled. This is of course hugely inconvenient with so many recurring online payments in place. However it was best to check. I also remove any credit card from the itunes store.
I am not sure how many other people have fallen foul of this but it all seems rather suspicious especially as the Developer “anibal soares” appears to not be very well represented on the web.
So whatever the loophole/hack/mistake is make sure you look out for in app purchases. Turn them off in the settings, but please avoid this app. If it is a genuine mistake then I will let you know but for now its a great way to lose £140 on a couple of clicks and I am sure the game was not that good (though I deleted the things from everywhere I could).
****Update 23/1/13 I wrote to Apple as a separate complaint from the one dealing with my particular money issue. I am due a reply within 48 hours.
I referred to the comments and how many of them appeared to be spam names or automated in some way too.
There is not an obvious fraud or dubious behaviour section. So I had to label it with “quality of content”.
Hopefully they will act as this is surely not in the terms and conditions, though apple do have a wide set of standards I hope common sense prevails.
Here is the note I sent via the Apple website.
“Last night I reported what appeared to be fraudulent in app purchases of £99.99 and £34.99.
On further investigation it appears many of the apps by developer claiming to be Anibal Soares have a similar set of extremely dubious in game content prices.
I am surprised that this content made it onto the app store and I am assuming that there was a gap in the update process that meant these were not fully checked? I am not sure if they have been hacked or if the developer is doing it deliberately. Some of the content seems to link to THE TOP BEST COOL FUN & FREE GAMES LIMITED registered (but current held by a chartered accounts firm) registered in at companies house as 08127720
The reviews of the app appear to be generated names giving the apps 5 stars they do not look in general like people.
Please can you confirm you are going to investigate this suite of apps please as it breaches a number of the app review guidelines. I would expect that a strict review can be done under “11.11 In general, the more expensive your App, the more thoroughly we will review it” as several hundred pounds of in app purchases must draw some attention.”
**Update 23/1/13 As much of what I do is about understanding how technology and trends impact us a people I have to hsare the observation about the impact this has had on the predlets. Predlet 1.0 being slightly older but the owner of her own ipad mini understood this was something that should not happen, but you can accidentally be caught out. So she has chosen to spread the word amongst her friends to look out for this app. Predlet 2.0 being slightly younger took this to heart a bit more. Despite not being told off, the explanation of what happened definitely had him worried. This morning he talked about it out of the blue again and said “but dad whenever it said buy I did hit cancel you know”. I explained that it was the same as if you have something stolen. You try and be secure, look after things, but sometimes people choose to take things from you. If there is blame it is with the people doing the stealing and scamming. Very classy though to pick on kids!
**Update 24/1/13 Still waiting to hear how this is progressing both from my reply to the original refund and to the specific extra request to investigate. So I did tweet to @AppStore too just in case. “@AppStore you need to investigate the £99.99 in app purchases should not have passed inspection? … still waiting to hear?”

***Update 4/2/13
I contacted Apple again asking why I had not heard any more. It would appear the reason was as they had refunded my money then everything was OK. Clearly it is not. So it would appear that no further action was being taken.

“Nadia here from the iTunes Store. I understand that you have not hear anything in regards to the charges you reported . I can certainly appreciate how motivated you must be to get this issue resolved quickly, and I would be more than happy to help you out with this today.

The order you are inquiring about was refunded on January 23, 2013, and should be available within 5-7 business days from the date it was processed.Please contact your credit card company regarding questions about when the credit will be posted to your account.

I just want to take a moment here to clarify for you what you were actually charged for. The items that you were billed for are what are known as In-App purchases. These are paid enhancements for apps. Things like weapons, items, extra levels, and other enhancements are types of in-game purchases which often fall into this category, and this is what you actually purchased, most likely unintentionally.

The Application ” Mustang Tuning Crash Chase” was free, and this is the Application that was used to purchase the in-app items. The in-app purchases were for “Deluxe Mode” and “Fun Games” to be used when playing ” Mustang Tuning Crash Chase.”

Whenever your iTunes Store password is entered on your device for your account, it is stored for up to 15 minutes, allowing new purchases to slip in without being prompted for the password. If, during those 15 minutes a new item is purchased (without being prompted for the password), those 15 minutes will start over. ”

So I am trying again! I have asked that they move this up from whatever 1st level support it is currently in. Or am I missing something that really was worth scamming people for £99.99 with a terrible little app?

****Update 5/2/13 This is probably getting a little bit silly now. I am trying to report a scam but Apple does not seem to have a “dealing with a scam” section anywhere. I just got a reply stating this.
“Thank you for getting back to me with this information. I see that you are very concerns about this app and believe that it is a scam and should be removed from the store. I will surely provide you with all the information I have in order for your concern to be addressed.

Ian as I stated in my previous email. I strongly suggest that you submit any feedback you have about this particular app at Apple’s Feedback page:

Our team will review all your suggestions and concerns and take the appropriate actions. If you continue to have any questions please let me know.”

So the answer to dealing with a scam is to just leave some feedback. None of those sections have anything even approaching the category this needs to be dealt with. I have asked that i get put through to the fraud department, or at least somewhere that is not level 1 support. It is not the support desk’s fault, I understand that, but I am not happy with a fob off of ask someone else by filling in another form. I wonder if there is a regulatory body that deals with these things?

****** Update 7/3/13
Having gone back to the apple itunes helpdesk with a response that this really needed to be handled in a different way and could they pass me to someone appropriate I was given another huge brush off. Presumably from the helpdesk flowchart.

“I see that you do not feel that our feedback page is the appropriate channel for your request. Ian I am truly sorry for any frustration this issue has caused and I can understand you desire to get your concerns address in regards to this purchase.

I have contacted a senior advisor in regards to this issue and they advised me that our feedback link in the best avenue in order to address your concerns. Our feedback page allow for suggestions or improvements as well as customer concerns and it is regularly checked. They also advised me that you can submit multiple request as well as having your friends and family submit there concerns about this issue using the feedback link.

Thanks for your understanding.”

This really seems strange as I have pointed out to them I am already in contact with the company and they should be the point at which this gets passed on. So I am trying one more time to get passed to the right people. I still can’t see how the comments box, not having my family and friends fill it in too is supposed to help in anyway. I am trying here to help other apple users? I do not understand them not being able to at least take a look and see?

****** Update 7/2/13 part 2.

Having written back to the helpdesk in order to try and get an explanation about why a rip off application (or genuine mistake) of this nature is allowed I attempted this response.

“That is really an unacceptable response as this is not a minor suggestion. It is not very joined up of apple. The app is on the store and that is where the link is to raise a concern.
Please put me in touch directly with the right people not redirect me to another web page where we have to go through this again.
I am considering reporting this to local authorities which I am sure is not the sort of thing that apple wants ?
Whatever your help desk process is this needs to be escalated up several levels.
I would be happy to talk personally to your supervisor as I am sure it is just the process that is failing here not you personally”

I appear to have hit some sort of counter on the helpdesk process though….. The response being this……

“I see that you believe that is issue to too major and providing feedback will not correctly address this issue. I can definitely relate to your concern as you believe this particular app is a scam and would like to report this issue.

Ian, as an advisor to the iTunes store, I cannot comment on the functionality of the in app feature for that app. Each application is built in with a possibility of upgrading and or purchasing upgrades to certain apps and games. As for this being a scam, please note that this has always been a feature and this is a feature you can turn off on your device. I would also ask that you submit feedback via the link I provided earlier. Rest assured that all submission are review our feedback link is the best avenue for your concerns to be addressed.

To turn off In App features on your devices, please follow these steps:

1) Tap Settings on your device’s home screen.

2) Tap General.

3) Tap Restrictions.

4) If necessary, tap Enable Restrictions and enter a passcode. This passcode will prevent restrictions from being disabled without your permission.

5) Scroll down to the Allowed Content section. Switch the In-App Purchases option to OFF. Enter your Restrictions passcode if prompted.

Ian I am sorry but I need to let you know that we’ve provided as much information as we can about this issue. Please note that Apple now considers this matter clearly addressed, and future replies requesting information beyond what we have clarified will not be responded to. Thank you for understanding”

So thats it, no more responses from the itunes store wheer you are able to register a concern or complaint. They seem to consider that my individual concern over money taken is all that mattered and that my concern for other people is not relevant.
I am sure it is just english cut and paste but “As for this being a scam, please note that this has always been a feature” may say it all.
So what now? This post is getting very long, but this need to be resolved Apple?

************** Update 7/2/13 part 3

I am not just trying the apple support communities see if that registers with anyone

*************** Update 27/2/13
It seems the global problem of bait apps and Apple’s lax attitude to them has caught up with them at least in the US where the class action rules. They are having to offer compensation and refunds to people caught by these apps. It is incredibly wide spread and so they would have taken a lot of money in percentages from these scams. The ruling has been reported here and here thanks to @katerussell and @hardlib for sending me the links.
It is important that Apple have taken steps to patch the iOS to remove the daft 15 minute window of opportunity for these sneaky apps to steal the money from our kids. I am not sure how people can live with the fact they do that, but dishonesty is dishonesty.
The ruling doesn’t effect the UK, but this is not really about compensation is it about Apple finally trying to do something about a problem that have complete power to stop. It makes a mockery of their app approval process though it would seem?

********** Update 13/4/13
The OFT (office of fair trading) in the UK has decide to look into the practice of targeting kids with in-app purchases. So I have sent this information on to them to see if helps their investigation. You too can report anything to them by Friday 28th June

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