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Gamed Online: In-app purchases, hacks can lead to lost time and money

Playing online isn’t all fun and games.

From in-app purchases made by young gamers without parents’ knowledge to hacked accounts, users who aren’t careful or are just unlucky might be out a significant amount of time or money from online gaming activity.

Epic Games, the creator of the wildly popular video game “Fortnite” is facing nearly 300 complaints. The game creator is accused of failing to address hundreds of complaints, ranging from customer service issues to problems with refunds and exchanges.

“I lost about $300,” one Missouri gamer told ABC 17 News.

The gamer said a hack within Epic Games resulted in him losing his player profile, meaning all of his in- game purchases also disappeared. He told ABC 17 News that he talked to three people at the company, but had no luck getting his money or content back.

In North Carolina, where Epic Games is headquartered, 271 complaints were filed within the last year. The Missouri Attorney General’s Office also receved one complaint, while the Better Business Bureau got five.

“Many of the complaints filed claimed that they purchased content but never received that content,” said Michelle Gleba with the Better Business Bureau.

Inside these free-to-play games, in-game purchases can create another nightmare. Hundreds to even thousands of dollars can be charged without parents even knowing.

“What parents probably don’t know is that their PayPal accounts, their credit cards are all still linked to their first-time transaction, so it’s very easy for a child to click ‘buy’ at anytime,” said Joe Chee, co-founder of Columbia gaming center Ukatsu, said.

Chee said parents can set up parental controls, get alerts any time a purchase is made and set screen time limits for young gamers.

He said the sudden popularity of “Fortnite” might have caught Epic Games by surprise and made it difficult to respond to complaints.

“Just because this game is hugely popular, doesn’t mean the company can get away with not providing good customer service,” Gleba said.

ABC 17 News contacted Epic Games twice for comment on what they are doing to resolve these complaints, but never heard back. Out of the five complaints filed in Missouri, none of the customers heard back from the company.

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