He’s making his list and checking it twice. Unfortunately, though, the scammers making the list aren’t being so nice.
Scammers famously exploit high-stress times, and the pre-holiday shopping frenzy is no exception. That’s why the BBB is warning of an uptick in holiday toy scams which can be difficult to spot.
Here’s what you need to know about these scams.
How the scam plays out
Every year, there are a few must-have toys that make it onto most kids’ wish lists (this year’s most popular toys include a realistic toy dog, an animatronic baby Yoda, and the PlayStation 5). These choice picks become the hottest-selling items online and in stores, getting plucked off shelves in a wink. Unfortunately, for anyone who didn’t shop early enough, these toys soon become more difficult to find than toilet paper at the height of the COVID shutdown. The parents search desperately, ready to pay almost any price to make their child’s wish come true, to no avail.
Here’s where the scammer steps in. Armed with a bogus website and some crafty online tracking, the scammer targets the vulnerable shopper with ads and online messages to draw them to the scammer’s site. On the authentic-looking site, the shopper finally finds what they were looking for — the sought-after toy! Often, the toy is even deeply discounted. The purchase is completed within minutes, but sadly, the shopper’s child will not be unwrapping the much-desired toy on Christmas.
Instead, the scammer will send a cheap knockoff that doesn’t work or quickly breaks. When contacted for a refund, the scammer will either be AWOL, refuse to provide a refund or only offer to refund a small percentage of the purchase price. Sometimes, they’ll also charge an exorbitant amount of money for shipping the toy back to the company, almost making the small refund not worthwhile.
As one shopper told the BBB, she believed she’d ordered a high-quality animatronic puppy that would move and act like a real little dog.
“I wanted to get it for one of my great granddaughters,” she said. “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 customer paid $59.99 for a Baby Yoda toy that turned out to be nothing like it was advertised.
“It was supposed to be animated and make sounds,” the customer reports. “When I finally got it, it [was] an ugly plastic hand puppet.”
After contacting the seller for a refund, the customer was instructed to send the toy back and pay for shipping to the tune of $20 — all for a $10 refund.
Don’t be the next victim of a holiday toy scam!
Here’s how to spot these scams:
- The seller has a large supply of toys that are in extremely high demand.
- The website is not secure.
- The seller is offering a steep discount due to a “flash sale” or “last-minute” deal.
- The seller’s website is full of spelling and/or grammatical errors.
Keep yourself safe when shopping online by following these tips:
- Research before you buy. Don’t purchase an expensive item from a company you’ve never heard of before without doing some digging. Feed the company name to Google and see what the search engine has to say about it. Look up the business on the BBB website. You can also try calling the customer-service number on the website to verify the legitimacy of the company.
- Only visit secure sites. Always look for the lock icon and the “s” after the “http” on the URL of a site to check if it’s secure.
- Check the descriptions of any item you want to purchase on Ebay, Craigslist, or similar sites. Scammers may list the item that you want, but the description will clearly say that it is a printed picture of the item and will enable them to avoid paying you any refunds.
- Pay with credit. Paying for a purchase with a credit card will offer the buyer purchase protection and an easier time backing out of the transaction if it doesn’t turn out as expected.
- Update your security software. For the best protection against scams, your computer should be using the most updated version of its security software
If you believe you’ve been targeted by a holiday toy scam, end all contact with the seller immediately. Alert the BBB and let your friends know about the circulating scam as well.
Shop safely this holiday season!