Having teenage video gamers can lead to big fights about screen time limits, but in the Schoepke house, it cost the family more than just their time.
"Thirteen months of multi-hundred dollar charges. Everybody was just floored," said Bolton, Massachusetts, resident Liz Schoepke.
Schoepke and her husband said they are out $13,000 after their son made a series of in-game Xbox purchases. They think it happened when he repeatedly pressed a button on his controller in an effort to get into games faster. It's something they claim was unintentional.
"We thought we had enabled the block of in-game purchases," explained Schoepke. "I guess it didn't work or maybe it was in one game and not in the next game that was added in the queue. There's probably a lot of things that we could have done or should have done differently, but just the fact it happened is really scary."
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When the Schoepkes set up their Xbox One system, they entered a credit card number and an email address that they don't regularly use. They say they missed dozens of Microsoft receipt emails detailing the purchases from June 2016 through November 2017.
"Three hundred dollars in charges in one day. That's crazy," said Schoepke. "We had agreements with the boys that whenever there was something to buy that we would be happy to consider it if they would talk to us, and tell us what it was, and we did that fairly regularly. We thought it was under control."
The Schoepkes also admitted they weren't checking their monthly credit card statements, which were set up with automatic direct pay. They eventually discovered what was happening.
"We asked the kids if they were doing this, and they said no," explained Schoepke. "They had no idea and so we went to Discover first and said, 'we think there has been fraud.' They removed the charges, and then did their investigation, and determined in fact it was our account with my son's gamer tag that was incurring the charges."
The Schoepkes say the credit card fraud investigation took months, and afterward, they tried to fight the charges with Microsoft. They say Microsoft customer service told them they would have to go through the online system to get the charges reimbursed.
"The system has a number of questions before you enter the information. The third question asks whether the charge was made within 14 days. I said no and you can't even enter your plea," said Schoepke.
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NBC10 Boston Responds reached out to Microsoft, and asked them to take a look at the Schoepke’s complaint. A Microsoft spokesperson told us:
"Xbox offers purchase limit tools for child accounts to avoid surprise spending in the Microsoft store. These features are highly customizable, and parents can choose to approve each purchase before it's made, to receive alerts after each purchase or to set up an allowance to limit the number of purchases children can make on their own."
The company did not reverse any of the charges. Schoepke says it is a $13,000 lesson.
"That's a tough pill to swallow. I want to be mad at my child, but he had no idea what he was doing," said Schoepke.
The Xbox.com support page provides information on how to prevent unauthorized purchases by children. They recommend creating a passkey that is required for signing in and they recommend using Xbox gift cards for purchases, rather than attaching a credit card to kids' accounts.