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 on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 PRO, and the new PlayStation 5. Be sure to use caution when buying a console online, according to the Better Business Bureau.
The scam starts by you first finding 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.”
How 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 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!
If you’ve been a victim of this scam, help out your fellow consumers by filing a scam report at BBB.org/ScamTracker.