With many people shopping for gifts on a budget this holiday season, scammers are taking advantage of the demand for pricey gaming consoles by promoting fake deals for Xbox Series X, PlayStation 5 and other in-demand systems.
Be sure to use caution when buying a console online.
How the Scam Works
You find a popular gaming console for sale online at a reduced price. Hoping to save some money, you research the seller’s website and find a few positive reviews. Convinced, you make your purchase via PayPal or another online payment method. You receive an email confirmation with shipping information and a tracking number.
If you receive a package at all from the company, it isn’t a gaming console – instead, it is a valueless phone cover or similar small object. Since you technically received a shipment, you will be unable to contest the purchase with the third-party who processed the payment.
Attempts to contact the company are useless. No one answers your phone calls or emails. One consumer who never received any package reported to BBB.org/ScamTracker: “I attempted to reach out to the email address on their website, however I received an email informing me that it was not a valid email address. I then attempted to call the phone number listed on the website, [which gave me] an automatic message informing me that the number was not valid.”
“If you’re in the market for a gaming console, be on the lookout for prices which are too good to be true,” Mechele Agbayani Mills, President of BBB serving Central East Texas said. “Supply chain issues plus demand for these popular items is creating an environment where it is more likely you’ll end up paying more for gaming consoles, not less.”
BBB provides the following advice to avoid online purchase scams:
Research the company you plan to purchase from thoroughly. It’s best to purchase items from sellers you already know and trust, but if you decide to purchase from an unfamiliar online store, do your homework first. Read as many customer reviews as you can find, look up the business on BBB.org, and do an online search with the company’s name followed by the word “scam” to see if you find any complaints. Make sure the company has legitimate customer service contact information (not just a form you have to fill out and hope for a response) and clear return and refund policies as well.
Avoid impulse buying. Scammers like to draw people in with “flash sales” and “limited time offers” in hopes you will hand over your money on impulse. Resist the urge.
Don’t believe prices that are too good to be true. Before you start shopping, find out the price of the gaming console at a major retailer. You can check prices online to get a general idea of what the console is selling for. Keep that price in mind as you shop and be wary of sellers who offer the product at a steeply discounted price. You could end up spending money on a defective or counterfeit product, or no product at all!
Don’t use unconventional methods. One tactic scammers use is having their victims pay via pre-paid credit card, gift card, or wire transfer. Avoid paying using these methods, as it is almost impossible to retrieve the funds once they’ve been sent.
For more holiday tips, visit the BBB Holiday Tips page. For other tips on how to be a savvy consumer, go to bbb.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, please call BBB at 903-581-5704 or use BBB ScamTracker.
About BBB: BBB is a nonprofit, business-supported organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Most BBB services to consumers are free of charge. BBB provides objective advice, free BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.3 million companies, 11,000 charity reviews, dispute resolution services, alerts and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. Visit bbb.org for more information. BBB Serving Central East Texas was founded in 1985 and serves 19 counties.