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Gamers claim unauthorized in app purchases from iOS game

post #1 of 31
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Users who have downloaded a free Chinese-language iOS massive multiplayer online role playing game in the iTunes App Store are complaining that the app charged them unauthorized in app purchases. Apple is investigating.

The app, called 帝國 Online, is currently only offered in a Chinese language version, with its English translation still in beta. The online iTunes web page of the title lists three reviews, all of which complain that their account was "hacked" by the game to drain their iTunes balance via multiple in-app game purchases.

Players of other games have also complained that in app purchases were being made without their authorization, although the claims of this happening do not seem as widespread as they should be if games were actually defrauding users on a regular basis.

The iTunes page of the game in question lists relatively high ratings, with no prominent complaints about accounts being "hacked," although some reviewers note the the game can't really be played beyond the second level without buying its in game currency for real money.

One user reported that after contacting Apple about the matter, the disputed amount of in game purchases from the game was refunded and that the company would investigate the situation. It's not clear whether the app actually subverted authorization of in-app purchases, or whether players simply didn't understand that they were buying potions, game currency and other in app game elements with real money from their account.

Apple originally initiated in app purchases only for paid apps, but later relaxed its rules to allow developers to offer free apps that could also sell in game elements for money.

Users concerned about making inadvertent in game purchases when playing games in an unfamiliar language (or when lending their iOS device to their children) can disable In App Purchases as a feature within the Settings / General / Restrictions configuration of their device.
post #2 of 31
in-app purchases are the next big scam to steal money from people. You have to trust the developer to follow the rules, which is about like trusting a fox to guard the chicken house.
post #3 of 31
If you didn't understand written Chinese then how would you know if you authorised a purchase or not?
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post #4 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by old-wiz View Post

in-app purchases are the next big scam to steal money from people. You have to trust the developer to follow the rules, which is about like trusting a fox to guard the chicken house.

I thought all transactions were processed by Apple. If anyone attempts to scam app purchasers, they would be cut off immediately by Apple.

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post #5 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by old-wiz View Post

in-app purchases are the next big scam to steal money from people. You have to trust the developer to follow the rules, which is about like trusting a fox to guard the chicken house.

Apple does review in app purchase when the app is submitted for review. The in app purchase API takes control of everything. Once you click purchase/buy the transaction is moved away from the app to Apple servers and the only feedback the app gets is "successful" or "failed", with transaction ID.

I think the problem in many cases is that users don't understand that they are actually being charged real money.
post #6 of 31
The API prompts the user for confirmation if the user wants to make an in-app purchase, so there is no way an app would "steal" without user confirmation.
post #7 of 31
In app purchases are terrible.
In many games you are forced to buy stuff just to get ahead.

The top grossers are always a few free games, with in-app purchases of course.
In my country's store, number 4 in top grossing is a free game named Tap Zoo.
As a purchase you can buy stars and coins.. A trunk of coins will set you back a cool 100 dollars.

They are like drug dealers. First one's for free..

An in-app purchase should be something used for extra content. Maybe more levels etc.
Basically, stuff you do Not need to enjoy the game. Extras.
post #8 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by kiwee View Post

In app purchases are terrible.
In many games you are forced to buy stuff just to get ahead.

The top grossers are always a few free games, with in-app purchases of course.
In my country's store, number 4 in top grossing is a free game named Tap Zoo.
As a purchase you can buy stars and coins.. A trunk of coins will set you back a cool 100 dollars.

They are like drug dealers. First one's for free..

An in-app purchase should be something used for extra content. Maybe more levels etc.
Basically, stuff you do Not need to enjoy the game. Extras.

That's just the way things work these days, ever heard of Farmville dollars etc, on Facebook?

I personally wouldn't click anything I didn't understand.

Caveat emptor.
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post #9 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

Users who have downloaded a free Chinese-language iOS massive multiplayer online role playing game in the iTunes App Store are complaining that the app charged them unauthorized in app purchases. Apple is investigating.


Apple needs to curate this app immediately. Afterwards, they can approve it. But for now, it needs to be curated.
post #10 of 31
Interesting to see this story because I have had a few complainers for one of my apps recently. Users have been accusing me of ripping them off, the app is apparently making in app purchases without them agreeing. I'm a little bit baffled by it, because it's apples code which takes care of the in app purchase.

Perhaps the users weren't talking shit after all!
post #11 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by old-wiz View Post

in-app purchases are the next big scam to steal money from people. You have to trust the developer to follow the rules, which is about like trusting a fox to guard the chicken house.

Apple have safeguards in place to prevent foxes from eating chickens.
post #12 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by hill60 View Post

If you didn't understand written Chinese then how would you know if you authorised a purchase or not?

How do you see this working then, as the only mechanism for in-app purchases REQUIRES you to enter your iTunes password for at least one in-app purchase, and you have to at the very least confirm you want to proceed with the purchase?

Chinese or not, you password requesting dialog, being a SYSTEM DIALOG, will alway request your password etc in your default/native language set on the device.
post #13 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by monstrosity View Post

Interesting to see this story because I have had a few complainers for one of my apps recently. Users have been accusing me of ripping them off, the app is apparently making in app purchases without them agreeing. I'm a little bit baffled by it, because it's apples code which takes care of the in app purchase.

Perhaps the users weren't talking shit after all!

Make sure that you remove the item from the queue after successful transaction. Otherwise, the app might try again after restart. I am not 100% sure if this could happen though. You might want to check the documentation. It could be a problem if your are charging for the item each time the user buys it.
post #14 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by kiwee View Post

The top grossers are always a few free games, with in-app purchases of course.
In my country's store, number 4 in top grossing is a free game named Tap Zoo.
As a purchase you can buy stars and coins.. A trunk of coins will set you back a cool 100 dollars.

Yeah, but Facebook and a couple of other useful apps are the actual top grossers in pretty much EVERY country's app store, followed by a FOURTH place app with purchases. Hardly matters worth a shit really. People are willing to pay for this crap, more fool them. So developers will keep on making it.

I'm sure you don't begrudge Google their "everything free" with ad-based dollars approach (hardly anyone does for some reason)?
post #15 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by johnqh View Post

The API prompts the user for confirmation if the user wants to make an in-app purchase, so there is no way an app would "steal" without user confirmation.

I was wondering that too, didn't think it was possible to bypass the confirmation. The password is get around-able for a few minutes before a time out.
post #16 of 31
In my opinion, Apple will take steps to prevent the use of unauthorized software.
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post #17 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by enohpI View Post

Apple needs to curate this app immediately. Afterwards, they can approve it. But for now, it needs to be curated.

I don't think that word means what you think it does.
post #18 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by malax View Post

I don't think that word means what you think it does.

It means that Apple gets rid of malware.
post #19 of 31
As a developer, when you ask the Apple in-app purchase API to purchase something, it pops up it's own dialogs telling the user what is happening and asking for their iTunes password. The developer does not have control over these dialogs, and can't make "silent" purchases. I think it is just a case of the users not understanding that they are spending real money.

Or perhaps the Apple Chinese dialogs (I have only seen the English ones) are written in ambiguous language. Though you would think a big company like Apple would do their research, so this does not seem likely. It's most likely just stupid users.
post #20 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by johnqh View Post

The API prompts the user for confirmation if the user wants to make an in-app purchase, so there is no way an app would "steal" without user confirmation.

If you entered your password in the last 15 minuets doesn't it skip this? I've also seen examples where the app doesn't make it clear your spending real money, giving the currency its own name a bit like monopoly money.

Apples put good ideas in place to protect customers. Bur it needs to be better, an option to turn off in app purchases is only good if you know about it. How about having it off by default.
post #21 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by timgriff84 View Post

Apples put good ideas in place to protect customers. Bur it needs to be better, an option to turn off in app purchases is only good if you know about it. How about having it off by default.

A overall iPod block for all in-app purchases would be an excellent idea. Sadly it won't happen.
post #22 of 31
Sounds like a few people see something on teh screen in chinese during a game and it has the word "potion" in it, so they click yes not realizing they are actually buying it. It's called user error not a scam.
post #23 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by old-wiz View Post

A overall iPod block for all in-app purchases would be an excellent idea. Sadly it won't happen.

A toggle for that option already exists, under Restrictions in the iPod’s Settings.

(I don’t think they should block IAPs by default—that would interfere with normal use; but IAPs should be set to ALWAYS demand a password. Totally blocking could be left as an option, just like totally blocking all app dowloads.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by timgriff84 View Post

If you entered your password in the last 15 minuets doesn't it skip this?

That’s what I assume the culprit is:

1. The user downloaded an update or did something else that used their password

2. During the window when the password is remembered, they pressed an unclear/badly-labeled or otherwise misunderstood button in the game, triggering a purchase (maybe with confirmation, but not with a password request; so some people might fail to understand what they were confirming).

If it’s a simple misunderstanding like that, then Apple and the dev may share the blame for it not being clear enough.

I hoped Apple would change this with 4.2, so that EVERY in-app purchase requires the password (at least by default), without the 15-minute (or whatever) delay that App Store itself has. The delay is nice there, but not for IAP. Every IAP (at least by default) should prompt for password. I don’t want my friends accidentally spending my paycheck on armor just because I had updated an app in the last 15 minutes before they started to play!

And as someone mentioned, in-game “currency" vs. real currency can add to the confusion. Maybe someone thought they were confirming a purchase with “imaginary gold” or something, and if they Apple password was not requested, they might not have thought any more about it until they noticed the charge.
post #24 of 31
The level of uninformed stupid in these people and this thread is high.

This is the Toyota "unintended acceleration" nonsense all over again.

This is not an app or Apple issue. PEBCAK.
post #25 of 31
It would be great if apple displayed the average amount people spend on in app purchases on the app download page. It would make it easier to spot these kind of apps that abuse the inn app purchase system in exchange for game progress by leveraging the same vulnerabilities that poker machines exploit. As an old school gamer I prefer to spend my time on games that are discreet crafted experiences. Thankfully the app store has plenty of those.
post #26 of 31
Never get Chinese software. Avoid Chinese products altogether as much as you can...
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post #27 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dreadkid08 View Post

Never get Chinese software. Avoid Chinese products altogether as much as you can...

Except their food. And not the Americanized version; the real stuff that has nutritional value.

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post #28 of 31

deleted


Edited by MacRulez - 5/4/12 at 12:41pm
post #29 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by enohpI View Post

Apple needs to curate this app immediately. Afterwards, they can approve it. But for now, it needs to be curated.

If they pulled back every app based on unsubstantiated user complaints there wouldn't be any apps in the app store. In this case they can investigate the claims, determine if the have validity and issue refunds if necessary without crippling the developer's business by pulling an app that may not have a problem. Who knows? it could very well be a problem on Apple's side that need fixing.
post #30 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dunks View Post

It would be great if apple displayed the average amount people spend on in app purchases on the app download page. It would make it easier to spot these kind of apps that abuse the inn app purchase system in exchange for game progress by leveraging the same vulnerabilities that poker machines exploit. As an old school gamer I prefer to spend my time on games that are discreet crafted experiences. Thankfully the app store has plenty of those.

It could be also indicative of popular apps that provide valuable content and features that people are willing to pay for. Even though not a free app upfront I spend a lot of money through Hipsatamic on lens effects and virtual fim types with no feeling that the developer is ripping me off.
post #31 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by hill60 View Post

If you didn't understand written Chinese then how would you know if you authorised a purchase or not?

If you don't understand Chinese why would you download a Chinese app?

Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.

 

"A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete...

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Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.

 

"A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete...

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