BBB Warning: Beware of scams while looking for season’s hot toys

Scammers are using the toys' popularity to trick parents out of their money.

Every year, there are always a few “must-have” toys on most kids’ holiday wish lists. The hot toy sells out fast and becomes expensive and hard to find. That’s when scammers use the toys’ popularity to trick parents out of their money.

In 2022, according to Amazon (a BBB Accredited Business), the “hot toys” include Magic Mixies Magical Misting Crystal Ball, Snap Circuits, Breyer Horses Unicorn Magic Wood Stable, National Geographic Break Open Geodes, and everyone’s favorite, Squishmallows.

How the scam works

You are looking for these toys, but they are sold out at every store you visit. So you decide to shop online. A quick search takes you to a page 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.org/ScamTracker, buyers thought they were ordering a high-quality toy. Instead, they received a cheap counterfeit version. In other cases, the products never shipped at all and the websites vanished. In either case, when the dissatisfied customers tried to follow up with the company, they found that the staff either didn’t respond or refused to provide a refund.

For example, one shopper told BBB Scam Tracker that they fell for a phony deal on a popular plush toy: “This company offered hard-to-find Squishmallows. I purchased one for $40. The website claims there is a 30-day hassle-free policy. I finally received the product and it is counterfeit. There are no tags on it and it is of very poor quality. I have tried to use the email provided to request a return label and it is not a real email. They also have a chat available on the website, but gee, guess what? No one is on the chat! I will be disputing the purchase on my credit card.”

Another shopper found what they thought was a great deal on a Magic Mixies Cauldron, but the product never shipped.

“I tried to reach out by email, website contact form and phone with no response. The phone goes to a Gmail mailbox,” the consumer told BBB Scam Tracker. “I was able to resolve it via a PayPal dispute, however, the company falsely had a Priority Mail tracking.”

Tips to avoid toy scams

  • Only buy toys from reputable stores and websites. The best way to avoid getting scammed when purchasing toys is to buy them directly from a seller you know and trust.
  • Don’t be fooled by extra-low prices. Unreasonably low prices are a red flag for a scam on many products. Avoid making a purchase from a retailer you aren’t familiar with just because the price sounds too good to be true – it probably is!
  • Research before you buy. If a company seems legitimate but you aren’t familiar with it, be extra careful with your personal information. Before offering up your name, address, and credit card information, make sure the company has a working customer service number.

For more information

See BBB.org/onlineshopping for more online shopping tips. For more about avoiding scams this holiday season, check out BBB.org/Holiday.

If you’ve spotted a scam (whether or not you’ve lost money), report it to BBB Scam Tracker. Your report can help others avoid falling victim.

If you see a questionable ad, report it to BBB AdTruth so we can investigate.