PlayStation 5 turns into holiday fantasy for scammers

Susan Tompor, USA TODAY
·6 min read
Leondre Leonard, 33, of Warren is greeted by a GameStop employee in Hamtramck to pick up a PS4 PlayStation he ordered online. Leonard, who said he was really bored, mentioned this was the only time he has gone out. GameStop is open in spite of  a stay at home mandate due to the spread of the Novel Coronavirus.
Leondre Leonard, 33, of Warren is greeted by a GameStop employee in Hamtramck to pick up a PS4 PlayStation he ordered online. Leonard, who said he was really bored, mentioned this was the only time he has gone out. GameStop is open in spite of a stay at home mandate due to the spread of the Novel Coronavirus.

DETROIT – The tough-to-find PlayStation 5 is turning into one red hot scam for the holidays.

The Troy, Michigan, Police Department issued a "scam alert" Monday calling the often out-of-stock gaming console a "scammer's dream."

Desperate Santas who really want to put a hot PS5 under the tree may be more vulnerable to scalpers and outright scammers.

"Please use extreme caution if buying one of these on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, etc," the metro Detroit suburban police department warned in a tweet.

Scammers in a mad dash

Everyday crooks are engaging in the old grab-and-go schemes, nothing cyber-sophisticated here.

One person selling a Sony PlayStation 5 gaming console ended up being taken by crooks on Nov. 18, according to the Troy police.

One man arranged to sell a brand-new PlayStation 5 gaming console through Facebook Marketplace. The PS5, which retails for about $500, was being sold for $1,200.

The man, according to Troy police, arranged to meet in the circle drive of the Troy Police Department.

"The purchaser arrived in a Dodge Charger, along with another man, and asked to inspect the unit," according to police.

The seller handed the box containing the PS5 to the man while he was still seated inside the car.

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"It was at that point that the two men drove away with the PS5 without paying the victim," the police stated.

Consumers are warned that they shouldn't let their emotions get the best of them this holiday season.

"Scammers will take advantage of the high demand for this item and the strong desire of parents to get their kids the thing they want for Christmas," said Troy Police Sgt. Meghan Broderick Lehman.

"We would recommend that people buy this item from an established retailer or from someone they know and trust," she said.

"If you do choose to buy from an individual seller, we recommend inspecting the item thoroughly and doing the transaction in a public place. If the seller requests a 'deposit' to hold the item, that may also be a scam."

Crooks aren't selling what you think online

Auction sites such as eBay reportedly are getting hit with fake postings where ripoff artists will sell you a photo of the PS5, not the actual game console itself. Yes, if you read the print closely, they're selling a photo.

EBay is in the process of removing the ads, given that PS5 ads just selling photos of the system aren't in compliance with eBay's policy that states "all listings on eBay must offer either a physical item or a service for sale."

"For any purchase, but especially highly-priced or in-demand items, buyers should exercise caution and thoroughly read the listing description," Ashley Settle, corporate communications for eBay, said.

"Buyers who receive an item which is not as described are entitled to a refund via our eBay Money Back Guarantee, provided the transaction is completed on the eBay marketplace."

Others warn that some suspicious online sites invited visitors to preorder the PS5 via a prepayment. But the crooks might get your credit card information or access to another account. Some personal information could be sold to other criminals.

The Better Business Bureau is warning that 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.

One red flag: Don't imagine that anyone is going to sell you a hot gift item at a super low price – even if you somehow can find some positive reviews about the seller online.

Everything might even seem legitimate once you send money via PayPal or another method and get an email confirmation with shipping information and a tracking number.

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But the BBB warns that in many cases if you receive a package at all from the company, it isn’t a gaming console.

Some consumers have reported receiving a "valueless phone cover or similar small object."

Since you technically received a shipment, consumer watchdogs say you will have a hard time trying to contest the purchase with the third party who processed the payment.

At this point, good luck finding that seller again.

One consumer who never received any package reported via the 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."

When the consumer tried to call the phone number listed on the website, the greeting was an automatic message informing the consumer that the number was not valid.

And the PS5 never shows up

I reported earlier this month that consumer watchdogs had begun hearing more reports about suspicious offers and websites promising deals on the latest PlayStation 5.

Some scams even involved supposed bargains on the older PS4.

In October, a consumer spotted a deal on OfferUp, an online marketplace, for a PS4 for $115 plus $45 for shipping, according to Amy Nofziger, director of victim support for the AARP Fraud Watch Network.

The buyer paid for the PS4 through separate transactions via CashApp, according to Nofziger, but the gaming system never arrived and the potential buyer was never able to get hold of the seller. And there was no way to get back the money.

A customer takes home a new PlayStation 5 in Seoul On Nov. 12 after Sony launched the new console in select markets around the world.
A customer takes home a new PlayStation 5 in Seoul On Nov. 12 after Sony launched the new console in select markets around the world.

Her tip: Never pay with a prepaid gift card, CashApp or Venmo or wire someone money when you're trying to buy a gift online. Use your credit card, not a debit card, for better consumer protection.

If you're meeting someone locally, police warn that you might just be buying an empty box. Or you might be meeting someone who wants to steal your money and doesn't have a PS4 or PS5 to sell.

If you're meeting, you can often arrange to go to a local police station or other public place.

But remember, the brazen thieves in Troy actually met the seller of that PS5 right in front of the police department before running off with the hot system without paying a dime.

Contact Susan Tompor via stompor@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @tompor. To subscribe, please go to freep.com/specialoffer. Read more on business and sign up for our business newsletter.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: PlayStation 5 buy can quickly turn into a scammer's dream, police say