Sony’s (NYSE: SNE) PlayStation Network has once again come under fire for its lax security infrastructure that’s led to compromised credit-cards and fraudulent charges.
But what’s even worse is how everyday gamers get punished by the company’s strange policies when trying to clear up the disputes, and how badly they’re treated for doing nothing wrong.
One Reddit user who goes by the handle of kadjar has shared his disappointing story with the /r/Gaming community, detailing Sony’s horribly exploitative methodologies used to resolve fraudulent charges made by PSN hackers.
And the worst part about it is that this could happen to any PSN gamer, at any time. Unless, of course, you never ever file your credit card info with your PSN account.
“My PSN account got hacked this morning,” kadjar began. “Sony support has given me only two options: eat $450 in fraudulent charges and be unable to use my account for 6 months, or dispute the charges with my bank and have my account banned forever.”
And it all started with a few e-mails.
After getting a bunch of e-mail receipts for content he didn’t purchase, kadjar instantly logged into his PSN account and removed his credit card from the PSN account.
“As the transactions came in, one-by-one, it became immediately cl0ear that my account had been hacked,” he said in the Reddit post.
After changing his e-mail and password and unlinking his credit card, he called Sony support. But it was already too late. The damage had been done, and kadjar’s credit card had been charged over $600 in fraudulent charges.
The next step was to get things straightened out with Sony support.
Surely the Japanese console maker had polices in place that protected their users against this sort of thing, right? Especially after the huge 2011 PSN outage where countless users’ personal information was hacked into and stolen.
Surely Sony would have learned from its mistakes to put its consumers–and subscribers–first. Right?
After speaking with a Sony support representative, kadjar was met with a troubling revelation: as per company policy, Sony is only able to refund transactions up to $150, which would go to your PSN wallet, not your bank account.
Plus $150 was just a fraction of the whopping $600 total of charges.
The kicker is that if kadjar went down this route, he’d be banned from his account for half a year.
“The Sony representative told me that they are only permitted to refund transactions of up to $150,” kadjar affirmed in the post.
But that’s not even the worst part.
Sony’s PSN policies are so backwards that if someone gets their account hacked and chooses to dispute the charges with their bank, that their PlayStation Network account would be permanently banned from the network.
Plus you’d also lose any purchases attached to your account–all the games, content, movies, etc would be forfeit.
“He also informed me that I could dispute the charges with my bank, but by doing so, my account would be banned from PSN. As a result, I would permanently lose all of my purchases, including the Last of Us Remastered.”
Let that sink in for a minute. A hacker breaks into your account, buys a bunch of things on your credit card, and Sony doesn’t help you out. No. They want you to pay for someone else’s purchases.
“Furthermore, my account will not be able to activate a new system for 6 months, per Sony policy. I’m completely locked out of my own account until that date.
“I then asked about what would happen if I got my bank to reverse the charges, and he informed me that it would result in a banned account.
“I asked if there would be any way to restore my purchases, and he told me that there would not be, but I “only have the Last of Us and a couple of the monthly free deal games,” so it’s not a big deal.”
And they even go so far as to literally discourage you by saying if you don’t pay for the charges, that you’ll lose your PSN account and all your games. How is this fair? How is this even a thing?
How could it get any worse? But for kadjar, it does: the hacker didn’t just rack up purchases, but he actually stole the account entirely, registering a foreign PS4 to it and thereby basically making it his own.
“The Sony rep also informed me that my existing PS4 had been deactivated from the network this morning, and that a new one had been activated.
“When I asked him to deactivate that new, mystery PS4, he said he could not. I then turned on my PS4, logged in with my new credentials, and attempted to activate my PS4 with my account, but it informed me that I could not activate it as long as there was another PS4 bound to my account.”
Kadjar even went so far as to post his complete log of transcripts with Sony support to prove that this is indeed how the Japanese console-maker handles fraudulent charges.
Other users have corroborated kadjar’s story with nightmare scenarios of their own. “Sony is holding my PSN account hostage” claims one user, and rightfully so. Another gamer has posted up a screenshot of their transcript with Sony chat support, detailing another horrible exploitative scenario.
Sony Can’t Catch the Hackers, So You Have to Pay
This is completely and totally unacceptable, Sony.
You are punishing the very people who made you what you are, you are creative an environment that panders to hackers and criminals and leaving honest, everyday gamers to pick up a tab for fees incurred by debased cyber-criminals.
Punishing gamers for legitimately wanting to dispute charges they didn’t make is absolutely disgusting, and you should be ashamed of yourselves. Banning someone’s account and taking away every game they’ve ever played or owned unless they pay up is not unlike holding hostages for ransom.
This isn’t the way to repay your customers. This is the way to make people swear off PlayStation altogether and share their experiences with as many people as they can. Anything to show gamers how Sony treats its constituency when they need help the most.
The PlayStation Network is tumultuous and turbulent at best, with hackers constantly pressing in throngs against the cyber gates of Sony’s digital service.
These reports only add in even more healthy skepticism to what is already a very testy online framework, making the targeted mayhem much more worrisome than the widespread crashes that interrupt our gameplay.
Maybe some day we won’t have to worry about being struck by hackers and then successively attacked by Sony’s reflex policies that hold our accounts hostage if we’re ever hacked, but for now, we’re stuck.
What You Can Do to Protect Your Account
The safest thing you can do to avoid this nasty situation is to simply never attach your credit card info to your PSN account. Given the convenience of digital sales, that’s easier said than done.
But you can make it harder for hackers to break into your account.
- Unlink your Credit Card – This should be done as soon as possible. You can pick up PS Plus vouchers in any store or even buy codes online. You can also buy digital PSN currency for digital games and content online and at various retailers. If you must use your credit card to add funds make sure you remove it after the purchase is complete.
- Update your passwords frequently – Make sure you always update your passwords–maybe once a month or so–and include multiple characters to generate secure passwords. LastPass has a great secure password generator that randomizes letters, words and symbols to make your digital keys difficult to guess.
- Update security info on PSN acount – Check your Wallet section on your PSN account for a settings page. Here you can add an option to require password entries every time you checkout–which really isn’t very useful considering the hacker already has access to your password if he’s hacked into your account. But at the very least you can turn off recurring subscription payments if you decide to keep your credit card active.
- Pay close attention to e-mails – Every time you purchase something on PSN, whether it’s redeeming a free PS Plus game or buying a new digital title, you get an e-mail receipt confirmation sent to your inbox. You should know right away if something is wrong, but as we’ve seen, by then it’s almost too late.
All in all Sony has messed up here. After being hacked and having their finances abused, users are already rattled, but Sony makes no attempt to make up for the rude invasion of privacy or even help the situation. But that doesn’t matter, not to a company: what matters is that they get their money.
Someone has to pay for it, Sony must think, and it might as well be the people who have been paying from day one: the consumer.