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PS5 Thefts Go 'Grand Theft Auto' 2021

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Criminal gangs in England are stealing consoles from moving trucks.Amazon customers report they're getting items like air fryers instead of the PS5 they ordered.Security experts advise manufacturers and retailers to step up their game. shotbydave / Getty Images

PS5 consoles are now such a hot item that thieves are doing everything from snatching them from moving trucks to stealing them from Amazon packages. 

The new consoles are in such short supply that scalpers are even using special software to buy them online for resale. The approaching holiday season means the $399 PS5 is a popular gift item, but some thieves are ruining the buzz for would-be gamers. 

"It is obvious that they plan on selling the consoles for cash—that is what happens when high demand items are stolen," Lauren R. Shapiro, an associate professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said in an email interview. "Organized retail thieves typically get a list of items customers want, and then shoplifters are sent into stores to obtain everything on the list. Organized retail criminals operate at local, regional, national, and international levels, resulting in billions of dollars of loss for retailers."

High-Speed Hijinks

In England, gangs are reportedly risking life and limb to get their hands on consoles. They're using several cars to box in a truck going at speeds of up to 50 miles per hour. In a typical heist, one thief climbs out through a sunroof or modified hatch, then uses cutting tools or a crowbar to break into the truck, climb aboard, then remove the PS5s. They've used this risky tactic 27 times.

Some thieves may be taking a safer route to nab PS5s. IGN reports that some Amazon customers in the UK are receiving items like bags of cat litter instead of a console. MTV journalist Bex April May got an air fryer instead of a PS5. She said she thinks her console was replaced sometime after it left Amazon's warehouse.

"We're all about making our customers happy, and that hasn't happened for a small proportion of these orders," an Amazon spokesperson told IGN. "We're really sorry about that and are investigating exactly what's happened. We're reaching out to every customer who's had a problem and made us aware so we can put it right. Anyone who has had an issue with any order can contact our customer services team for help."

Retailers Fight Back

Considerable efforts are made to prevent the theft of consoles, experts say. At the manufacturing level, assembled and packaged consoles are stored in secured areas until they're ready to move into distribution.

"During transportation to distribution centers, and from there to retailers, the packages are not clearly marked, but are identified by codes," Robert McCrie, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said in an email interview. "Trucks in the delivery phase can be remotely monitored for security. The goal is to move the merchandise to retail outlets as fast as possible.

"When high demand merchandise reaches retailers, again the products are monitored carefully, sometimes by conducting daily audits to detect or discourage any shrinkage."

Shapiro advises upping the ante against any would-be console hijackers. 

"Armed security guards can be placed inside the trucks or can escort trucks in a separate vehicle to protect the shipments," she added. "This could be expensive, but also would reduce the loss. Trucks should not have signage that signals electronics are inside."

Also, any console rats need to be taken out, she said, proposing there could be an insider providing shipment dates and times to outside parties, and that an investigation needs to happen.

For those who do get their hands on a PS5 despite the supply problems, Grand Theft Auto 5 will be coming out next year on the console. Hopefully, thieves won't be taking note next time around.