Still hoping to buy a PlayStation 5 this holiday season? Be careful not to fall for a social media scam involving fake offers to buy a PS5 at its retail price.
The scam exploits how Twitter has become a valuable resource for consumers to learn when retailers will restock the PS5 and the Xbox Series X. Accounts such as @PS5StockAlerts and @PS5Updates will post the latest rumors, along with links to the actual products when they go on sale at Walmart, Best Buy, and Target.
The accounts have attracted hundreds of thousands of followers. But unfortunately, fraudsters have seized on the demand for the video game consoles, too. They’re hijacking verified Twitter accounts and re-skinning them to look like legitimate PS5 or Xbox restock tracking services.
The accounts will then message consumers, offering to sell them consoles at normal retail prices. But it seems those consumers are left with nothing once they fork over the money.
We noticed this scam play out in real time this week. In one case, a Twitter account dressed up as a PS5 stock-tracking service was actually a hijacked account belonging to a journalist at the New York-based newspaper The Journal News. The tell-tale sign was the user handle on the account @LoHudLegal, which clearly has nothing to do with PS5 restocks. Instead, LoHudLegal refers to the website for the newspaper, which is at Lohud.com.
“Sure was,” the reporter told PCMag, confirming the hack. “Apparently, the person is selling games and systems.”
An older tweet on the @LoHudLegal account before it was hijacked.
In the other case, scammers took over a Twitter account belonging to a Yemeni educator named Debbie Almontaser, who has over 17,000 followers on the platform. The account was changed to become a “PS5 & Xbox Updates” monitoring service. However, the user handle @DebbiAlmontaser made it obvious something was up.
The account soliciting offers to own a PS5 or Xbox at normal retail prices.
On Monday, Almontaser herself confirmed her Twitter account had been hacked. “It’s a devastating breach of my privacy and we’re trying to recover the account,” she wrote in an Instagram post on Monday.
In both cases, the hijacked accounts offered to sell the consoles at retail prices to interested users over direct messages on Twitter. To better understand the scam, we spoke to the @DebbiAlmontaser account under the pretense we were looking to buy a PS5 console.
“If you check out our page sir we’re a verified sales rep with a blue check mark I can assure your in good hands we have made many legit transactions over the few months and will happily assist you,” the hijacker claimed.
Excepts from the messages we exchanged with the hijacker.
The same hijacker offered to sell us a PS5 disc-edition console for $550. But in return, we had to first send payment either through Cash App, Apple Pay, or Zelle. A name, physical address, and email address had to be provided as well. The seller then claimed they would send the shipping confirmation once the payment went through.
When asked about why the account was using the Twitter handle @DebbiAlmontaser, the hijacker proceeded to claim they worked for Sony as a sales representative. The hijacker then blocked us after we confronted them with the original Instagram post from Almontaser, warning the public about how her Twitter account had been hacked.
It remains unclear how the scammers took over the accounts. But the scheme has been going on for months now, according to past reporting from Forbes and Variety. In July, for example, one scammer managed to hijack the Twitter account belonging to actress Tatum O’Neal to post offers about PS5 sales.
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In response, Twitter told PCMag: “We’re constantly adapting to bad actors’ evolving methods, and we will continue to iterate and improve upon our policies as the industry evolves.” However, it’s clear the scams continue to circulate.
The Twitter user @CameronRitz is among those tracking PS5 restocks on the internet. However, he said scammers are constantly trying to circulate fake console offers to his followers. “I get DMs from people all the time asking if they’re legit and then sometimes people say they got scammed,” @CameronRitz told PCMag.
“People are just so desperate now they’re willing to believe something against their better judgement, especially trying parents and grandparents,” he added.
Twitter has since locked down access to @LoHudLegal and flagged @DebbiAlmontaser for investigation. Twitter also pointed out: “Accounts may become compromised if you’ve entrusted your username and password to a malicious third-party application or website, if your Twitter account is vulnerable due to a weak password, if viruses or malware on your computer are collecting passwords, or if you’re on a compromised network.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include comments from PS5 restock tracker @CameronRitz.
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