Scammers fake PS5 console giveaway after supposed tragedy: Internet Scambusters #1,030
Preying on sympathy in the wake of a supposed tragedy, scammers are currently hoodwinking members of public groups on social media by offering a fake free PS5 games console.
They pretend to be a parent who has lost a son or daughter and offer to give away the console they supposedly bought for the child as a surprise.
We have the details of what they're really up to in this week's issue, along with news of the latest installment in the ongoing saga about the passing-off of bamboo-derived fabrics as eco-friendly.
Sob Story and Sympathy Won't Get You A Free PS5
Scammers know if they can spin a sob story that brings victims near to tears, the cash just rolls in. And there's no shortage of people lining up for their latest con - offering the much sought-after PS5 games console for free.
Their latest trick is currently sweeping Facebook, popping up in all sorts of unlikely places - mostly public groups on the social media network whose topics have nothing to do with the alleged tragedy - as well as on neighborhood trading sites.
The tale of woe starts with a post statement that's meant to disarm readers and goes something like "I hope it's okay to post this on this page…." This basically gives the scammer free rein to go off-topic.
The story that follows, usually written in a woman's name, claims that their young son or daughter died as a result of an illness or accident. The poster claims they bought a games console as a surprise, which the young "victim" never got to see. Now they want to get rid of it because, in the words they commonly use, seeing it is "hurts my soul."
So - guess what? - they're giving it away for free. All you have to do is send a direct message to the poster. But then, you learn you must pay for shipping from overseas. Oh, and there are a few other additional charges or maybe you want to donate a few extra dollars anyway.
From the scammer's point of view, there are endless possibilities to get more money from their victims until they realize there won't be a games console at the end of this rainbow bridge.
Postings on various Facebook groups seen by Scambusters, from gardening to art topics, are all pretty similar. They use group members' hijacked accounts and include photos of a new PS5 console plus, in some more gruesome cases, pictures of the supposed child's casket.
The lure is strong because PS5s are scarce and hard to come by. For fans, the offer of a free one may be too much to resist.
Groups that are moderated (i.e., checked by an admin person) usually stop or quickly remove the post, but it can remain in place for a long time on those that are not regularly checked. Some attract scores of sympathetic emojis and comments -- and who knows how much money.
There are a number of red flags about this posting, including poor English and use of photos that clearly show the console plugged into a power outlet when it is supposed to be brand new and boxed.
Playing off people's emotions is an increasingly common format for social media scams. A good way of spotting them is to copy a few words from this type of post and paste them into a browser search box. This would certainly have flagged up this latest scam.
But also take the time to think this kind of thing through before you let your reactions take control. Skepticism and the realization that, even if it were true, you'd likely be way back in line to collect should be enough to warn you off.
Not Just Bamboo
In one of our issues a few years back, we highlighted confusion over the eco-friendliness of fabrics made from bamboo.
Manufacturers and retailers use the term to cash in on the public perception that bamboo is a good thing because it grows fast and is therefore sustainable and harmless to the environment. That's not always true when it's converted into silky viscose or rayon using toxic chemicals.
Recently, two of the nation's biggest retailers were ordered to stop making deceptive claims about these products and were fined more than $5 million for mislabeling their contents simply as "bamboo."
Samuel Levine, Director of the Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Consumer Protection, says: "False environmental claims harm both consumers and honest businesses, and companies that green wash can expect to pay a price."
Here's an explanation of the chemical process from shopper guidance site The Honest Consumer :
"Bamboo viscose is made from the cellulose of bamboo. It is extracted from the plant and turned into bamboo chips. These chips are soaked in sodium hydroxide and carbon disulfide to make wood pulp. The pulp is extracted through the use of spinnerets and then solidified using sulfuric acid."
That doesn't sound as eco-friendly as many of us might have been led to believe, does it?
Of course, as with so many things, the situation is not as simple as that, since some bamboo-based fabrics are now being made without the use of these chemicals.
For example, it is possible to make fabric from bamboo mechanically, without chemicals, but this results in a much coarser product, sometimes called "bamboo linen."
Furthermore, some manufacturers have now developed and use methods they claim do not use toxic chemicals. These can be certified by the global, Swiss-based Oeko-Tex Association as containing no harmful chemicals.
So, if you're buying bamboo, make sure you check the feel of the fabric and the label. If it's soft, it's almost certainly rayon. If the label doesn't include Oeko-Tex certification, maybe you want to dig deeper before you buy.
If you want more details about bamboo fabrics, visit The Honest Consumer site. Note that the site also contains links to products for which it might receive a commission.
You can also read our full report in Issue #700, which additionally highlights bamboo investment risks, here: Don't Be Bamboozled by These Bamboo Claims.
This Week's Scam Alerts
Car Rentals: Watch out when you search online for the best car rental deals. Scammers use site names similar to those of reputable rental companies, which often pop up at the top of a search. Renters who contact them are usually told to use prepaid debit cards. That's not how genuine car hire firms operate - and usually you don't have to pay till you pick up your car.
No Judge: Did you just get a call from a judge warning you to pay a fine - perhaps for failing to turn up for jury duty or committing an offense? Scammers know that pretending to be a judge might just frighten people into paying. But judges don't do that, nor do court officials. Just scammers. You know what to do: Hang up.
That's all for today -- we'll see you next week.