Supply chain shortages open a new world of scams as many scramble to find holiday gifts

Consumer Watch

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — If you’re looking for that hard-to-get gift this holiday season, be wary of anyone who says they can get it for you right now.

Supply chain shortages have opened a whole new world of scams out there.

Those who track these things, say scammers are doing everything from creating fake websites claiming they have hard-to-get items, to sending out texts and emails or even making phone calls to people saying, “I can get what you’re looking for.”

With holiday gift desperation setting in, many people fall for the line the scammers dish out.

Let’s take the PlayStation 5 and XBox Series X. They are two of the hottest gift items this year but try finding them — you can’t.

“We’re paying higher than retail to try and buy them,” said electronics merchant Rodney Spriggs. “We’re not having any luck trying to buy them from anybody hardly at all.”

With the massive backlog of goods from overseas creating a shortage that cascades into warehouses and shipping, scammers have seized on the opportunity to offer non-existent goods.

“They reach out via email, text message or on social media,” said Cyberthreat researcher Nick Biasini of Cisco Talos.

“People will be tweeting — they’re trying to find stock — and these people will respond and say, ‘I have stock,’ but they don’t. It’s just scammers,” Biasini added.

Many scammers will then charge prices that are four or five times that of regular retail. Once they’ve got you on the hook, you’ll burn more and more of your cash on the fakes.

“You could see things like added fees, finder’s fees, and fraudulent shipping charges,” said Biasini. “All of that stuff is used as a way to bolster the amount of money they’re taking in.”

Many of these scammers often create fake websites to hock their nonexistent goods.

Biasini says one of the best things to protect yourself from fraudulent websites is to be skeptical.

“Buying from a big box retailer will give you more certainty of the product you are getting,” he said.

You also need to be wary of anyone asking you to pay for your purchase in cash or any form of wired currency on the various cash-sending apps out there.

“These bad guys are well versed in that stuff,” Biasini said.

Once the money is gone in a wire transfer, recovering it will be very difficult.

Here are tips to protect yourself:

  • Only use a credit card (because they offer a recourse to recover your funds if things go wrong)
  • Be wary of emails making promises
  • Don’t give out your phone number to anyone promising to get hard to find product

“They’ll call you on the phone and try to work you out of money that way,” Biasini warned.

The scammers know if they can talk to you in person, they are more likely to convince you to part with your cash than simply relying on the internet alone.

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