Every year, there is at least one toy or game that is the kids' favorite — the must-have, the "hot toy of the season."
This year, one of those is the "Squishmallows" series of stuffed toys. Cute, huggable, squeezable, and very much in-demand.
Unfortunately, that means they are likely to be sold out if you try to grab one at a brick-and-mortar store. Naturally, you may try to shop for them online.
This is where the Better Business Bureau warns you may fall into a squeeze of a different sort.
This year's hot toys (per Amazon):
- Magic Mixies Magical Mixing Crystal Ball
- Snap Circuits
- Breyer Horses Unicorn Magic Wood Stable
- National Geographic Break Open Geodes
How it works
Shoppers do a quick search for the toy, and among the well-known retailers, you may find shops whose names you don't recognize, offering those hot items at hot discounts.
The BBB says the online stores may look professional and contain original images of the product you're looking for. The discounts may be described as a "last-minute deal" or a "flash sale."
The shopper orders the toy, only to be disappointed when the item arrives. Often, the BBB says, the item is a cheap knock-off or counterfeit.
"This company offered hard-to-find Squishmallows," said one victim, who shared their story with the BBB anonymously. "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."
The victim said they tried emailing the company to request a return label and the email came back undeliverable. An online chat on the website went unanswered.
In other cases, nothing arrives at all and the website vanishes.
The BBB offers these 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.