Kids conned into forking out cash for rogue Android apps

Regulator PhonePayPlus is warning parents that their offspring may run the risk of racking up enormous bills if they don’t communicate with their kids about smartphone usage.

The regulator saw complaints about kids usingor misusing apps soar 300 percent over the space of one year. Many children are using apparently free apps that are actually rackets designed to get them buying additional content through in app billing, which PhonePayPlus warns is particularly risky for minors.

PhonePayPlus also noted that children were downloading so-called free knock-offs of popular games, such as Angry Birds and Cut the Rope, which were loaded with malware that secretly charged £15 to phone bills every time the apps were opened.

Parents should also take notice of premium rate services advertised through free social media. According to PhonePayPlus, there has been a 575 percent jump in users gaining access to services this way, which often play on the trust and naivety of children. There was one case, cited in this PhonePayPlus report, where a 14 year old girl was tricked into coughing up for virtual credits because a fake friend told her she didn’t have any credits to call her dying grandmother.

The regulator also pointed out how children between 12 and 14 were tricked into sharing and liking a promotion on Facebook which was actually part of a scam to promote a premium rate competition.

As a result, PhonePayPlus concluded that it will have to take action against misleading promotions on social media, and will be consulting networks to get rogue promotions removed. It will also lobby government, industry, and other regulators to make sure regulation can keep pace with changes in the digital market, especially with the emerging risk to consmers.

Parents, meanwhile, should do their bit to stay clued up on threats with digital media and make sure they know what their children are up to.