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12-Year-Old Racks Up $111K in Google Ad Charges

An enterprising young brass band enthusiast was slapped with a $111,000 bill from Google after he got his sense and his words mixed up—Google AdSense vs. Google AdWords, that is.

The Spanish 12-year-old “had a band and he tried real hard,” to quote Bryan Adams from the 1980s (yes, I just said that). But young José Javier, from the seaside Alicante town of Torrevieja, has savvy that is 100% Millennial: He wanted to get the word out about his sweet tunes by uploading some clips to YouTube. But why stop there? Why not add some monetization by running a few ads with the videos?  

His mother, Inma Quesada, told Spain’s national newspaper, El País, that her son “wanted to buy instruments” for his band, Los Salerosos, in which he plays the trumpet.

In his mind he may indeed have had dreams of upgrading his horn (or maybe accumulating Jagger- or Bono-like rock-n-roll fortunes based on a growing commercial empire—kids should dream big, don’t you think?). But the reality turned out to be much, much worse. He made a simple mistake, and signed up for a service that allows advertisers to pay Google to place their ads on certain pages (AdWords), instead of signing up for AdSense, a revenue-sharing service from Google that pays online publishers a percentage when visitors click on an ad.

He racked up thousands in no time.

Google told his mother that it didn’t plan to go after the budding musician, considering that you have to be 18+ to open either AdSense or AdWords accounts. José’s mom however, hopefully with a healthy sense that she dodged a financial bullet, noted that it was far too easy for him to sign up—and that there is no real age verification in place. All young master Javier needed to do was to provide a bank account number and reserve a product name. He used a savings account that had been set aside in his name to pay for his driver’s license fees, among other things.

She didn’t seem all that upset though. As she told El País, “My son didn’t know what he was doing. Now he’s famous at school and his mother is on television.”

Maybe she should open a YouTube account.

Photo © Alexey Boldin/Shutterstock.com

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