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A Quick History Of Accidental Online Purchases By Kids

In little hands, a tech gadget can quickly turn from a toy to a cash register.
In little hands, a tech gadget can quickly turn from a toy to a cash register.

EBay's app is so easy to use, a toddler can do it — and her parents would argue about whether that's a good thing.

Paul Stoute says his 14-month-old daughter, Sorella, was recently playing with his smartphone when she tapped her way through the app's purchasing prompts and bought herself an early Sweet 16 present — a vintage car. Stoute says he panicked after receiving a congratulatory email, and he tried to get out of what turned out to be a $225 purchase. (It was a definite fixer-upper.) But after giving it some thought, Stoute says he and his wife decided to try to restore the roadster and give it to Sorella when she can drive.

News of her shopping spree quickly went viral on Thursday, and little Sorella's story serves as another cautionary tale for parents of tech-curious kids. Typical of stories in this digital age, many parents virtually nodded along, sharing similar tales of mistaken online purchases with hefty bills — while others wondered about its veracity.) Indeed, the Stoutes' story isn't uncommon; the Internet is full of stories of technology getting the better of both buyers and sellers.

  • An 11-year-old in California accidentally downloaded a $1,000 bar exam review app.
  • A 2-year-old managed to order a pay cable program while playing with the remote.
  • Earlier this year, Apple settled a class-action lawsuit brought by parents whose kids bought items like virtual food, gems and coins while playing iPhone or iPad games. One 5-year-old racked up $2,570 in these in-app purchases.
  • From the Arrested Development school of lesson learning, a mother convinced her son he mistakenly bought a $50,000 Ford Mustang while playing with her iPad. His heartbreaking emotional response ("We're going to have to sell everything! I'm horrible!") sparked a firestorm of criticism about his mother's parenting.
  • Parents and kids aren't the only ones getting tripped up.

  • A car dealer sold a 1994 BMW for $1 in a Buy It Now auction. The dealer honored the sale, saying: We are firm believers in the auction process and for it to be fair to buyers and sellers alike.
  • A video game company posted a terrific deal: a 90 percent off coupon code made live by a third-party company testing shopping cart software.
  • And just to prove the Internet isn't always to blame, in April, a Macy's mailer promoted a massive deal on a $1,500 diamond necklace. The ad was supposed to say $479; thanks to a typo, it read $47.
  • If you fear accidental smartphone purchases, you can learn more about how to prevent them on your Android and iOS devices. You can also follow the lead set by Sorella's dad, who says he just installed a facial recognition app to prevent any further unwanted buys.

    Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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