Who's Making Unauthorized Purchases On My Kid's Card?

We hear it all the time:

“My child’s card has been compromised! There are fraudulent PlayStation charges!”

Or Prime charges, or Spotify, or iTunes, or... you name it.

99% of those turn out to be inside jobs.


Professional fraudsters liquidate stolen cards quickly and move on with as little trace as possible. They don’t stick around to play online games, stream music, or sign up for Amazon Prime memberships. But kids, their siblings, and their “friends” sure do! 😉

When you see an unexpected charge that your child disavows, the first order of business is to put on your Dad/Mom Detective Hat and follow these seven steps:

  1. Lock the card. See how here.
  2. Have a little heart-to-heart with your child. Talk about the steps you’ll be taking below to identify the source of the charges.

    At least half the time, your work is done here. Even the whiff of some detective work tends to jog a child’s memory that an unauthorized purchase wasn’t quite so unauthorized after all.

    If your child can’t recall whether they have and account with an online merchant, visit the merchant’s website, find the sign in page, try the Forgot Password link with your child’s email, and see if your child receives a response in their inbox.

    Be gentle here — learning to use a card responsibly is all part of the learning and maturing process. Shenanigans in this department are very common and normal, no matter how awesome your parenting is. Remember, your kid’s frontal lobes are only partially developed.

  3. Find the customer service contact for the merchant in question. You may have to Google the text of the transaction description if it isn’t obvious.
  4. Ask the merchant to look up the account making the charges and shut it down if appropriate.

    Getting some basic account info like the registered email address often identifies or narrows down the potential “perp” — like the “friend” in a recent case who lifted the card number, expiration date, and security code by taking pictures of the card while it was sitting out on the counter.

  5. Ask the merchant for a refund. Often, merchants will be quite accommodating here even if the purchase wasn’t technically unauthorized — especially for digital subscriptions like Amazon Prime.
  6. If the charge is truly unauthorized and the merchant won’t budge on a refund, let them know you’ll be filing a chargeback. That costs the merchant money, so the mere mention of it often gets results.
  7. If the charge is truly unauthorized and the card is compromised (or a chargeback is warranted), follow the steps here to file a claim with our card processor and issue a replacement card (no charge).

Be sure to remind your kids to protect the info printed on their cards. No pictures of the cards on social media. No leaving the cards lying around. Keep those numbers safe from prying eyes!

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