There I was, sitting at my computer cranking out the next great American novel (I wish), when I decided to take a break from writing and check my email.
Delete, delete, mark as spam, delete — nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Then I clicked on an email from iTunes. It was a notification telling me that someone on our account had just spent $29.99 purchasing Power Pack Fireball Boosters.
What the heck? My kids know they are supposed to ask permission before buying anything on their iPhone or iPad. They always pay me in loose change and rumpled dollar bills when they buy a game. Usually if they spring for an upgrade, it only costs 99 cents, or at the very most, $4.99.
Annoyed, and certain that someone was going to lose screen-time privileges, I raced upstairs to investigate.
“It wasn’t me,” said my son, “I didn’t buy anything.”
“Me either,” claimed my daughter. “I don’t know what fireball boosters are.”
“Mom,” my son added, “we don’t know your iTunes password. How could we buy something without needing you to type it in?”
“Huh.” I scratched my head. “That’s a good question. Maybe my password was already logged into your devices or something. How’d you do that?”
“We didn’t,” said my daughter. “Why don’t you believe us?”
“OK, OK, I believe you,” I said halfheartedly. But I went back to my computer to log into iTunes to see if I could pinpoint the exact time Power Pack Fireballs Boosters had been downloaded, and on which device.
It was then, while I was opening up the iTunes browser directly on Apple’s website, that I realized something important. Our iTunes account is from my husband’s email address, not mine. So why was I getting an email about a purchase? It was only at that moment — a good 10 minutes after I had read the email, that I finally saw the red flags waving in every direction.
The email that was supposedly from iTunes was a scam that targeted busy parents like me. If I had clicked on the link it asked me to click on, I would have entered my iTunes account username and password. Then the scammers would not only have that information, but my name, address, credit card and probably a whole lot of other things, too.
It’s embarrassing to admit that I was stupid enough not to realize it was a trick from the beginning, but I wanted to share my story so that the next time you read your email, you can be careful. You didn’t inherit $20,000 in Zimbabwe, you didn’t get a refund on a purchase you don’t remember buying, nobody bought something on your nonexistent iTunes account and your granddaughter isn’t trapped in a Mexican jail.
If it weren’t for my kids and their skepticism, I might have been hoodwinked. Thank goodness for the younger generation.
Jennifer Bardsley is author of the books “Genesis Girl” and “Damaged Goods.” Find her online on Instagram @the_ya_gal, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as The YA Gal.