Tech Industry

Police investigating alleged PlayStation 2 supplier scam

Thousands of people are getting refunds instead of PlayStation 2 units after a Web site that is working with police said it was duped by a supplier that never delivered the hard-to-find video game consoles.

Thousands of people are getting refunds instead of PlayStation 2 units after a Web site said it was working with police after allegedly being duped by a supplier that never delivered the wildly popular--and hard to find--consoles.

"It is absolutely 100 percent evident that we were scammed," said Mark Thurman, chief executive of Families On Line.

In a message posted on the site, Thurman said the supplier promised to ship the consoles to Families On Line by late November. After taking about 9,000 orders, the Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.-based company never received the goods.

Thurman, who said his site is an Internet service provider geared toward "filtering out the evils of the Internet," is working with the Ft. Lauderdale Police Department's Economic Crimes Unit on the case.

Sgt. Bob Farrell confirmed Monday that detectives are looking into the matter, but he declined to give specifics.

Thurman and the police refused to identify the supplier, and it is also unclear whether the supplier is working with other Web sites.

Meanwhile, Families On Line is expected Monday to finish processing the paperwork to refund customers' money, Thurman said.

Parents and players searching for the elusive PlayStation 2 have touched off a consumer-buying frenzy similar to those that had Beanie Babies and Cabbage Patch Kids flying off the shelves.

Some PlayStation 2 shoppers have unleashed "shopping bots," computer programs that automatically prowl e-commerce sites, to find the consoles. While the bots are effective, some e-tailers complain they are overloading their systems and causing site outages and slowdowns.

Besides the bots, the sheer demand for the PlayStation 2 has clogged the Web sites of several online stores. Sites including Amazon.com, Best Buy and Kmart's BlueLight.com stalled or had other site problems because of the vast number of people logging on.

Some say part of the problem behind the sites is the online merchants themselves. Some charge that companies chose to make customers play a daily guessing game as to when PlayStation 2 would go on sale.

For instance, Amazon and BlueLight offered an undisclosed number of consoles each day but would not reveal the day or time they would make them available. Since the consoles sell out immediately, only those willing to continuously eyeball a site stand a chance of getting one.

In addition, consumer groups recently warned that some sites are allegedly trying to exploit the demand for the toy.

Last week, the main branches of both the Canadian and U.S. Better Business Bureaus issued warnings to consumers to beware of certain companies that could be taking orders for consoles they did not have, including a company that ran the sites PS2storeusa.com and PS2storecanada.com.

Canadian police launched an investigation into that company after thousands of customers complained that they had paid Web sites for a PlayStation 2 but had never received it.