Consumer Alert: BBB System warns of bogus online offer
By Damon Marturion
New Business News Staff Writer
BBBs IN U.S. AND CANADA ISSUE INTERNATIONAL ALERT:
HOLIDAY SHOPPERS SEEKING HARD-TO-FIND ELECTRONIC GAMES
ARE FALLING VICTIM TO BOGUS ONLINE ADVERTISEMENTS
Better Business Bureaus in the United States and Canada today issued an international alert to caution consumers about web sites that falsely advertise the availability of popular electronic games and related products.
Consumers in states across the U.S. have contacted the Canadian Council of Better Business Bureaus (CCBBB) to ask about the legitimacy of two Canadian-based web sites (URLs: www.ps2storeusa.com and www.ps2storecanada.com) that are falsely advertising “a large supply” of Sony Playstation2 products.
The product has sold out in many retail stores, so some parents are searching the Web in hopes of placing an order for delivery this holiday season.
"The CCBBB started to receive calls earlier this week from consumers who visited one of these web sites, placed an order and hadn’t received the product as promised. We continue to receive more than 20 complaint calls a day," said Bob Whitelaw, president of the CCBBB, based in Ottawa, Canada. "What’s particularly alarming is the fact that purchasers were asked to fax a photocopy of the front and back of their credit cards to assure speedy delivery of their gifts. No legitimate business will request photocopies of your personal financial information."
The BBB has been unsuccessful in its attempts to locate the principals or business owners responsible for the web sites in question. The company is identified as Playstation Store of USA and/or Canada, 300 Main Street, Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada E1C 9T6.
Sony Computer Entertainment Canada has advised the Better Business Bureau that any commercial web site that claims to have “thousands of” Sony Playstation2 products for sale is making a bogus claim. Sony has asked the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to investigate and has requested a ‘cease and desist’ order against the two websites.
Senior officials at Visa and MasterCard Canada are alerting their U.S. counterparts about the potential for credit card fraud.
During the holiday season, consumers are reminded to be extremely cautious when evaluating advertisements for gifts and products that are known to be in short supply and not available in their local retail stores.
"Some parents abandon common sense when they’re on the search for hard-to-find popular toys, and scam artists know this. Over the years, BBBs have reported similar surges in fraudulent offers connected to the sale of Beanie Babies, Cabbage Patch dolls, and other in-demand toys," said Ken Hunter, president of the U.S.-based Council of Better Business Bureaus.
The BBB advises Internet shoppers to do business with merchants they know, or look for an online seal that signifies that the merchant is affiliated with a reputable online consumer protection program, like BBBOnLine.
"If you’re not familiar with an online store, do some research before you buy. Responsible merchants will clearly post their physical address and telephone number on their web site. Use that information to check the business’s complaint record with the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org) or local consumer protection agency," Hunter said.
Popular electronic games and products are also being advertised through online classifieds and auctions. Consumers are cautioned to exercise similar care when evaluating the sales pitches of private sellers.
"If you are considering purchasing a product from an individual who is selling goods via the Internet, your legal recourse may not be the same as against a business. Be wary of ‘too good to be true’ prices or deals, and if possible, pay with a credit card, using a secure browser, to ensure the most protection if something goes wrong. If the seller doesn’t accept credit cards, consider using an escrow service," Hunter said.
. . . watch for more stories coming soon