Don’t let the microchip shortage and supply chain issues tempt you to buy from scammers.

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Every holiday season, most kids have at least a few “must-have” toys on their gift list. In past years, you may have pulled off locating hard-to-find toys and electronics with some savvy online shopping, even when those items were in short supply. This holiday season, however, promises to be a tough one when it comes to finding toys in high demand.

The microchip shortage, along with lengthy supply chain delays, most likely means you could run into problems such as out-of-stock items and higher prices on sought-after toys. So, when you come across an online ad or website that claims to have to have a toy in stock – even when it’s sold out with every other retailer – you may be quick to charge the item to your credit card so you can scratch it off your gift list.

However, buying a toy impulsively could draw you in to a holiday toy scam, warns the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Even when the photo of the toy looks professional and the seller claims the low price is a last-minute deal, a scammer could still be on the other end of the transaction. “Many such offers are fake,” says the BBB.

Toy scams abound this holiday season

The BBB Scam Tracker has already received complaints from people who were duped by toy scams this holiday season. Some consumers reported buying what they thought was a high-quality, electronic toy, only to receive a cheap, counterfeit version instead. Other people complained of toys they ordered never arriving.

“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,” according to the BBB.

One complaint focused on a scam for LEGOs that were never shipped. When the customer contacted the business selling the toys, the company gave the consumer the runaround for three months, along with a phony tracking number. “I checked the tracking number they gave me with the USPS, and they didn’t have anything with that number. It was a fake to begin with,” according to the complaint.

Other toy scam complaints reported include phony deals on gaming consoles. One consumer searched for a Nintendo Switch OLED that was out of stock with every major retailer. Finally, the consumer found the product on an unfamiliar website for $100.

The customer jumped at the cheap price, received an email confirmation and waited for shipping information to follow. When that didn’t happen, the customer checked the company’s website, only to find that the site had been taken down. “I tried emailing them, and the email just returned back to me undeliverable,” said the customer complaint.

Don’t let desperation to find must-have, out-of-stock toys this holiday season drive you into the open arms of scammers eager to steal your money.

Here are three tips from the BBB for avoiding holiday toy scams this holiday season.

1. Stick with reputable sellers

If you find a fantastic deal on that hard-to-find toy offered by a store or website you’ve never heard of, beware. If every other retailer is sold out or has the product on backorder for 2022, the chances that the unfamiliar site could be running a toy scam are high.

“The best way to avoid getting scammed when purchasing toys is to buy them directly from a seller you know and trust,” says the BBB.

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2. Don’t be tricked by low prices

One of the biggest red flags that an ad or a site selling a toy that’s impossible to find anywhere else is a price that’s significantly lower than the usual retail price. Never make a purchase from an unfamiliar retailer just because the price is low, warns the BBB. If the price sounds too good to be true, it’s probably a scam.

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3. Do your research before buying

There may still be some good deals on must-have toys out there, but if you find one, make sure you do some research before making the purchase. Look up the company and the website with an online search, typing “scam,” “reviews” and “complaints’” in your search terms.

You may find that plenty of other customers report never receiving the toy they ordered or receiving a shoddy knockoff that looked nothing like the product advertised. Before ordering, make sure the company has a working customer service number. Also, make sure the website URL begins with “https” and contains a lock icon, which means the site payment process is secure.

“If a company seems legitimate but you aren’t familiar with it, be extra careful with your personal information,” says the BBB.

Caution is key this holiday season when shopping for hard-to-find toys. So, always make sure you do your research before buying toys online and remember, if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Find out: Top 5 Scams Targeting Seniors

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About the Author

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp is a full-time freelance writer based in Kansas City, Mo. Deb went from being unable to get approved for a credit card or loan 20 years ago to having excellent credit today and becoming a homeowner. Deb learned her lessons about money the hard way. Now she wants to share them to help you pay down debt, fix your credit and quit being broke all the time. Deb's personal finance and credit articles have been published at Credit Karma and The Huffington Post.

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