How to prevent online spending with Apple TV
June 8, 2016 3:51 PM   Subscribe

I'm asking for a dying friend's caregiver. We want to give him his Apple TV, but are concerned about the potential for online spending (and exposure to fraud). We want to figure out if it's possible to prevent online spending through Apple TV (or another platform). I know there are parental locks possible, but I think that will mean he can't purchase movies and music, which we'd like to allow.

My friend has brain cancer and only 2-3 months to live. We want to give him his Apple TV in his care facility, but are concerned about the potential for online spending (and exposure to fraud). The tumors have, among many other horrible effects, erased his impulse control, and we removed his tablet and phone after he ran up some very significant online charges (~$1500 in 30 minutes during a recent appointment). If it was just him, it wouldn't matter, but a minor child is his heir (and that under normal circumstances, he'd want to preserve his estate for her), and we want to make sure that the estate is as intact as possible.

We want to figure out if it's possible to prevent online spending through Apple TV. I know there are parental locks possible, but I think that will mean he can't make minor purchases, like movies and music, which we'd like to try to allow.

I guess what I'm trying to figure out is how to let him watch TV, listen to music, maybe buy movies, but stop other kinds of online spending. I've read that for Apple TV there are downloadable shopping apps, and browsers. Is it possible to restrict spending and Web browsing? I've tried to look online, but the information seems to broad.

Another possibility might be a different sort of access device, like something that just allows Netflix and Hulu, for example, but I'm not sure how to figure out the best way to do that.
posted by Gorgik to Computers & Internet (12 answers total)
Can you use Apple gift cards - put a balance of say $100 on the account but not have a credit card attached that can be hit up for high amounts of money? This would only allow purchase of movies, apps, etc. - things that are purchased directly from the Apple store, which would also perhaps minimize possibility of certain types of fraud.
posted by randomkeystrike at 3:54 PM on June 8, 2016 [4 favorites]

Only the newest model of Apple TV has an open app ecosystem, and none have web browsers. Which Apple TV do you have to give him? If it's not a 4th Generation one, you should be fine. You can subscribe to Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Now and buy music and movies and TV shows, but no way to rack up hundreds of dollars of charges (maybe the MLB app? I don't know for sure.)
posted by Automocar at 4:03 PM on June 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

but no way to rack up hundreds of dollars of charges

Yes you can, on movies, music, games, etc. The newer model is much better in terms of use and has an entire app store.

My Googling suggests you CAN use a gift card but you have to input it through iTunes to the assigned Apple ID. If you do this, give him his own Apple ID email/password that is not connected to any other forms of payment.

Those Amex or Visa gift cards that is reloadable may work similarly.

If you're regularly in contact then maybe he can add things to a wishlist and you can gift them to him. You can gift movies through itunes though you cannot gift a rental - and spending $5 rental versus $20 to own....

I wonder if Roku would be better. I don't have one, but it works with Amazon video which may be better for gifting rentals/movies or purchasing them with gift cards easier than on Apple TV/iTunes because you can do it through the Amazon web page and could add different types of Visa gift card/money/credit cards.
posted by Crystalinne at 4:19 PM on June 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

There are no games on the older Apple TVs.
posted by Automocar at 4:30 PM on June 8, 2016

Apple Family Sharing may be the answer.

All new iTunes, iBooks, and App Store purchases initiated by family members will be billed to the family organizer’s account. But the organizer can still call the shots. Just turn on Ask to Buy for children in the family. When a child initiates a purchase, an alert is sent to the organizer, who can review the item and approve or decline it right from the organizer’s device. This applies to both purchases and free downloads.
posted by roger ackroyd at 4:41 PM on June 8, 2016 [5 favorites]

You can also set up an allowance on his account through iTunes!
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 4:59 PM on June 8, 2016

The gift card thing sounds maybe workable. We do the get permission thing with our kids, and it's ok, but it definitely adds friction---they request, I get the request, I approve it, but they don't always get? see? the notification that it's been approved. And sometimes I'm not in a position to approve a request right away.

iTunes allowances have been cancelled. Boo.
posted by leahwrenn at 5:46 PM on June 8, 2016

What about Netflix? If you can set up the Apple TV or a similar device (like a Roku or Fire stick) so that only Netflix is enabled, then it's a flat fee — no danger of excessive charges. The selection is limited, but it could be a worthwhile compromise?
posted by actionstations at 8:47 PM on June 8, 2016

Another plug for gift cards. I'm almost positive you'll need to link an active credit/debit card to the account in order to enable purchases (even using gift card funds). But perhaps you could use a dedicated debit card connected to an empty checking account, ensuring it would decline charges instead of racking up fees if charges were attempted. Then just go gift card only.
posted by reeddavid at 9:01 PM on June 8, 2016

Family Share with purchase approval and/or an allowance is the way to do this.
posted by sideshow at 5:59 PM on June 9, 2016

Sadly, Apple is getting rid of the iTunes allowance feature...
posted by reddot at 6:06 PM on June 9, 2016

Thanks, everyone. The situation has evolved since I asked, and this thread has helped immensely. FYI, Apple TV and iPads are frustratingly similar in that the Restrictions passcode is good and works well, but doesn't prevent someone from resetting the device, which wipes out the restrictions. We're going to go with pre-paid cards and gift cards, and after much discussion and fretting all the existing credit cards have been cancelled.

Fuck cancer.
posted by Gorgik at 8:13 AM on June 11, 2016

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