Scammers using Christmas 'must-have' toys to con consumers

Scammers are quickly cashing in on the latest toy trends in the run up to Christmas, according to the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

Every year, consumers go shopping for the “must-have” toys on most children's wish lists.

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These toys are usually the first to go out of stock in stores, and because they are in such high demand, they can also become expensive and hard to find.

This year, many consumers seem to be searching for Star Wars The Child Animatronic Edition (aka Baby Yoda) and a realistic toy dog.

However, recent reports to the BBB show that scammers have quickly caught on and are using the popularity and demand for these toys to trick online shoppers out of their money.  

How the scam works:

You are looking for these toys, but they are sold out at every store you visit. So you decide to look online. A quick search takes you to a page that miraculously has the toy in stock. The site may look professional and seems to 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 of these offers are fake. In several cases reported to BBB Scam Tracker, buyers thought they were ordering a high-quality, animatronic toy. Instead, they received a cheap counterfeit version. When the dissatisfied customers tried to follow up with the retailer they purchased from, they either did not respond or refused to provide a refund. 

 

In one BBB Scam Tracker report, a consumer shared that she thought she ordered a high-quality, animatronic puppy.

"It was supposed to move and act like a real little dog. I wanted to get it for one of my great granddaughters. When I received the dog in the mail it was a small stuffed animal that you could get out of a machine at an arcade." 

Another consumer reported paying $80 for a Baby Yoda toy that fell far short of their expectations.

"It was supposed to be animated and make sound... When I finally got it, it is an ugly plastic hand puppet. I contacted them for a refund and an address to send it back. They say I have to pay for shipping, and it will be $26.00. And they will give me a 10% refund."

BBB’s tips to avoid toy scams:

•             Be wary of online shopping invitations. These days, scammers are setting up sophisticated schemes to trick online shoppers out of their money and personal information. Traps like sponsored ads, fake websites, email solicitations, pop up online ads, and fake social media accounts featuring in-demand products or items you have been looking for in your online searches, have been particularly successful at deceiving consumers. Be wary of these online invitations, as many also include malicious links that could give cybercriminals unauthorized access to your device.

 

•             Only buy toys from reputable stores and websites. The best way to avoid getting scammed when purchasing toys online is to buy them directly from a seller you know and trust. Research the company, check for customer reviews and complaints and make sure that they have working contact information like a customer service number. Start your research at bbb.org.

 

•             Don’t be fooled by extra-low prices. These are oftentimes disguised as flash sales and online discounts. Scammers are also likely to use the popularity of Black Friday and Cyber Monday to lure in online shoppers searching for bargains. However, an unreasonably low price for an in-demand product will always be a classic red flag for this kind of scam. Avoid making a purchase from an unknown or unfamiliar retailer just because the price sounds too good to be true; it probably is!

 

•             Be a savvy shopper. When shopping online, be sure to take your time and read the fine print before submitting your order. Look for the return policy. Although many online orders can be returned for a full refund, others have restocking fees, and some items cannot be returned at all; so know before you buy.

 

•             Protect your personal information. Before offering up your name, address, and credit card details, read the site’s privacy policy and understand what personal information is being requested and how it will be used. If a website does not have a privacy policy, that’s a big red flag that it may be a scam.

 

•             Shop with a credit card. In case of a fraudulent transaction, a credit card makes it easier to dispute charges or to get your money back if there is a problem.

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