Straight Talk: Don't fall for scams when shopping for hot toys

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Every year, there are a few “must-have” toys on most kids’ holiday wish lists.

The hot toys sell out fast and become expensive and hard to find. In 2023, the hot toy lists from CNET and Today.com include Furby, Barbie Dreamhouse, Fingerlings, Bitzee, Lego, Elmo Slide, Dog-E, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mayhem Pizza Fire Delivery Van, Beast Lab, and many others.

If you are shopping for a child this holiday season, do not let scammers trick you into accidentally buying a fake (or non-existent) version of a popular toy. Watch out for these tricks.

How the scam works

You are looking for this season’s hot toy, but it is sold out at every store you visit. You decide to do a quick online search or spot an ad in your social media feed. This takes you to a website that miraculously has the toy in stock. The site may look professional and have original images of the product. It may even offer the product at discounted prices, claiming a “last-minute deal” or “flash sale.”

Unfortunately, many such offers are fake. In many cases reported to BBB Scam Tracker, buyers thought they were ordering a high-quality toy. Instead, they received a cheap counterfeit version. In other cases, the products never shipped, and the websites vanished. In either case, when the dissatisfied customers tried to follow up with the company, they found that the staff either did not respond or refused to provide a refund.

For example, one shopper told BBB Scam Tracker that they ordered a discounted Lego set online. “I waited a day or so and got back with the company on my order and was told this is their busy season and will take longer to ship.” The shopper waited but never received a shipping confirmation. When they reached out again, the company offered to refund their order, but the shopper never got their money back.

Another shopper found what they thought was a great deal on a Barbie doll, but all they received was a credit card charge from a seemingly unrelated company. The shopper “clicked a link on Facebook that noted that Mattel was offering collectable Ken & Barbie movie dolls for $1. They charged the card over $5. Charge was from [an unrelated company listed as] Quality Electronic Premium.”

Tips to avoid toy scams

Only buy toys from reputable stores and websites. The best way to avoid scams when purchasing toys is to buy them directly from a seller you know and trust. Avoid making a purchase from a retailer you are not familiar with.

Do not be fooled by extra low prices. Unreasonably low prices are a red flag for a scam. If the price sounds too good to be true – it probably is!

Research before you buy. If a company seems legitimate but you are not familiar with it, be extra careful with your personal information. Before providing your name, address, and credit card information, make sure the company has a working customer service number.

For more information – See BBB’s online shopping hub at BBB.org/OnlineShopping for more online shopping tips. For more tips this holiday season, check out BBB.org/Holiday. If you spot a scam (whether or not you have lost money), report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker. Your report can help others avoid falling victim.

For BBB information – Visit BBB.org or call us at 330-454-9401 to look up a business, file a complaint, write a customer review, read tips, find our events, and more! Follow us on social media for “The 12 Scams of Christmas,” to know what to look out for this holiday season.

This article originally appeared on The Alliance Review: Straight Talk: Don't fall for scams when shopping for hot toys