Hardly any other season involves as much toy shopping as winter holidays do. We buy toys for our kids, children of our friends and relatives, and, sometimes, even for ourselves. As we rush into purchasing things, it's very important not to become a victim of a holiday scam.

To save your time and prevent you from falling into hands of scammers, we've made a list of potential Christmas toy shopping problems, such as delivery scams and fake products, which you need to be aware of.

Top-5 Holiday Scams 

  1. Artificially inflated prices. Every year brings a new marketing craze. Pokémon, Hotwheels, Bionicles, Furby - the list goes on. At times, the demand for the product goes so high that the prices for it go skyrocketing. The memory of the last year's kids' all-favorite - Hatchimals - is still fresh. Parents were forced to look for Hatchimals online paying premium and very often fell into hands of scammers. This year gave us Fingerlings - cute interactive toy monkeys sold by pretty much every other e-store out there. Yet, the demand is so high that some Amazon stores double the product price as all the major authorized retailers appear to be all sold out. 

  2. Misleading product descriptions. Sadly, Fingerlings is associated with one more major problem holiday shoppers encounter - fake product descriptions. Many are in a hurry to shop and do not suspect that the unscrupulous e-shop owners use the well-known product's images and names to market a completely different, yet visually similar, toy.

    A result is disappointment, just like in the case with this Tophatter customer – instead of the neat toy on the picture the store sent a cheap plastic look-alike that didn't match even half of the product description on the website. Needless to say that the customer's kid was unhappy with the toy he got:

    "Ordered a "interactive fingerling monkey" – the seller had posted images right off the wow wee fingerling website! […] buried in the description was "no induction feature" – it was not interactive, the title and images used (except for one) were not of the product we received. We ended up with a cheap plastic monkey that did nothing!!! […]"

  3. Hidden charges and overcharging. Everyone likes good deals and offers like "Buy 2, get 1 free" or "Just pay shipping" don't surprise us anymore. However, shoppers should always stay alert. Due to either a mistake in website settings or because of a deliberate scam intent, you may still get charged full price, despite all the discounts and freebies offered in pop-ups and product descriptions. What's worse, the retailer may not even bother to make up for the overcharge - this lesson was learned hard by this Tummy Stuffers consumer, who got lured into buying an extra toy in exchange for free shipping. Not only the seller ended up charging him for shipping anyway, but also the product was never delivered.

    "They overcharged me $25.00. I was only buying 2 to start with but it said buy a 3rd to get free shipping. So shipping was $17 plus and a 3rd one was $20. So I bought a 3rd one. Got charged for the shipping anyway and the total was still off not counting the shipping. Emailed and told they would refund the difference at shipment. Well they never shipped. […]"

    You must also watch out for subscriptions and memberships. You may be surprised to find out that, together with the product (or instead of it), you purchased a subscription for the items or services you might not even need. You may discover the mistake way too late. It's never a bad idea to spend a few extra minutes to read what exactly you are signing up for when you are buying something online. This way you can avoid some other major problems like return scams.

  4. Low-quality and counterfeit products. There are hardly any things that kill your holiday mood more effectively than a gift that arrives at your house broken. 

    Unfortunately, this is the reality for many shoppers. What adds insult to injury is the fact that the store you bought a present from may completely refuse to fix the issue.

    Even if the product arrived in one piece, it doesn't guarantee that it will last. At times, you are not informed about scarce/expensive spare parts or the fact that the product price is low because, essentially, the toy was designed to be working for a few weeks only. That's why it's a good idea to inquire about potential maintenance/part replacement price for the more expensive toys. Otherwise, you may end up being as dissatisfied as the customer who bought a ride-in car. At first, everything seemed fine, but in only few weeks the charger broke down. Unhappy client also mentions retailer's inability to provide proper Best Choice Products customer support.  

    Best <p>Choice Products Ride On Jeep

    "I bought my son the ride on jeep for his first birthday and EVERYTHING was great for the first two weeks then the charger quit charging.I tried numerous times to get customer service on the phone.Needless to say it was impossible. So i dug up an old charger i had with the same voltage ratings (in/out).Worked great for another two weeks then […] the wireless receiver decided to burn out as we were riding up hill."

  5. Delivery issues and return scams. Some of us may have become so got used to overnight product delivery that waiting for a whole week for your package to arrive turns into an unbearable torture. Yet, sometimes it takes even longer for the parcel to arrive, as some of your purchases may be coming all the way from China. Naturally, consumers may get unhappy and leave a bad store review, which is justified if they get their order way past the date they needed it. As this holiday shopper file a Screaming Owl review:

    "We ordered my daughter a dress that was going to be used for a wedding as a flower girl dress.Ordered it July 11th 2017. The wedding was supposed to be September 19th 2017. […] the dress FINALLY arrived November 15th 2017. Please tell me why it takes 4 MONTHS to receive a dress???!. And btw the dress doesnt even fit and i ordered 2 sizes up from her normal size! That is not good customer service […]"

    The real problem, however, begins when the retailer completely fails to get the products to the end user, so the package either gets lost on the way or gets delivered to a wrong address. At times, it turns out that the goods were even never shipped to begin with. Situations like this can happen to both big and small stores - it's very important to be sure that the situation will be handled properly not to become a victim of shipping mix-up. 

    christmas shopping scams

What do I do to avoid holiday scams?

  • Don't rush. Compare prices from several retailers, choose the one that's the most suitable for you
  • Be attentive. Even if your shipping and credit card data is auto-filled, be sure to double-check it before you place the order – this way you can avoid return scams.
  • Don't fall for "traps". Some retails will try to lure you into a purchase using dishonest techniques. Watch out for annoying multiple pop-ups, offer countdowns that re-set when you refresh the page and extremely high discounts. Trust your browser – if it says that website is suspicious or is not secure, don't shop there.
  • Go for bigger retailers. No matter how good it is to support small businesses, don't ruin your holiday by shopping in a newly-opened store. You need to be sure that the place you buy gifts at is well-reputed and reliable. Besides, big retailers are normally much better at handling complaints.
  • Check delivery terms. Some stores may actually extend the delivery time in the seasons of high-demand, so be prepared to wait a bit longer.
  • Read the reviews. Learn from other people's mistakes and see what are the potential "red flags". It's also super helpful if you, too, leave reviews on the purchases you make.
  • Have a plan "B". If you cannot get this super popular toy for your kid, think of more accessible alternatives.

Holiday season is about sharing, caring and spending time together. While you do need to be careful when shopping for toys and other presents, make sure that you, above all other things, enjoy choosing the best gifts for your loved ones. May the luck and lightning-fast delivery be with you. Find more holiday tips on how to spend the season to remember and to protect yourself from loosing money. Happy holidays!

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While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal, medical, accounting, investment, or any other professional advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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