Marjorie Stephens | Guest columnist
Holiday shopping will soon end as Christmas nears. Many consumers are searching for last-minute deals or shopping on a budget — and scammers are always looking to trick an unsuspecting shopper.
This holiday season, scammers are taking advantage (again) of the demand for pricey gaming consoles by advertising fake deals for Xbox Series X, PlayStation 5, and other high-demand systems. Scammers will create realistic advertisements for the consoles at rock-bottom prices and place them all over the internet and social media.
After some research, consumers may find a few positive reviews which may make them feel comfortable making the online purchase. All looks well, a confirmation email is even sent – but a scam is soon to follow.
In many cases, the consumer will place an order and might receive a valueless item in place of the console they ordered. The item could be a phone case or trinket. The scammer does this so that the consumer will be unable to dispute the charge on their account because a package was technically received.
One consumer told the BBB their experience with this phony game console scam, “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.”
Use BBB’s tips to avoid this scam:
• Research the company 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 posted, 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, research 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!
For more tips from BBB, visit BBB.org. And if you spot a scam, whether you’ve lost money or not, report it to BBB’s Scam Tracker at BBB.org/ScamTracker and the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Your story can help other consumers avoid similar scams.
Marjorie Stephens is president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Northern Indiana. Contact the BBB at 800-552-4631 or visit www.bbb.org.