Scammers famously exploit high-stress times, and the pre-holidays 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 on most kids’ wish lists. These choice picks become the hottest-selling items and are plucked off shelves in a wink. Unfortunately for anyone who didn’t shop early enough, these toys soon become impossible to find. The parents search desperately, but 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 the shopper to the scammer’s site. On the authentic-looking site, the shopper finally finds what they seek — the sought-after toy! Often, the toy is also deeply discounted. The purchase is completed within minutes.
Unfortunately, though, the scammer will send a cheap knockoff that doesn’t work or quickly breaks. When contacted for a refund, the scammer refuses to provide one or offers only to refund a small percentage of the purchase price. Sometimes, they’ll also charge an exorbitant amount of money for shipping it back to the company, almost making the small refund not worthwhile.
Here’s how to spot these scams:
- The seller has a large supply of toys that are in 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 with these tips:
- Research before you buy. Avoid purchasing an expensive item from a company you’ve never heard of before without doing some digging.
- Look for the lock icon and the “s” after the “http” on the URL before buying anything.
- Review item return policies before making a purchase.
- Pay with credit for purchase protection power.
- Keep your security software up to date.
- Hang on to any purchase order confirmations.
- Don’t trust links in unsolicited emails. Scammers will often impersonate reputable websites in order to gain access to your account information. Go to a company website directly when looking for an item.
- 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!