CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – Its the holiday a season and many shoppers will be looking for the hottest items and toys on the market before they sell out or become too expensive… but the better business bureau is alerting customers about scams.  Scammers are using an items popularity to trick people out of their money.

“I actually prefer to shop online because I seem to find more variety online and I think the stores have decreased their amount of items in the store,” said Christine Parmentier of South Hadley.

Shipping delays, labor shortages and the slow supply chain is already affecting holiday shopping. With limited selection, hot items are selling out fast which has people looking elsewhere and falling victims to online scams.

“When I shop online, I always use a credit card. That’s one of the things and I also make sure that I’m shopping on a reputable site,” said Parmentier. “You just have to be careful of where you’re shopping and if it’s looks too good to be true, it could be.”

There are always a few “must-have” toys on most kids’ holiday wish lists such as Magic Mixies Magical Misting Crystal Ball, Snap Circuits, Breyer Horses Unicorn Magic Wood Stable, National Geographic Break Open Geodes, and everyone’s favorite, Squishmallows in 2022, according to BBB Scam Alert.

22News spoke with Milagros Johnson from the Mayor’s Office of Consumer Information about these shopping scams, “It’s going to steer you, redirect you into a fraudulent website and they are looking to steal your money and compromise your personal information and you certainly don’t need that headache during the holidays.”

Johnson warned shoppers to proceed with caution when it comes to emails or text messages that promote flash sales or last minute deals, and never use our debit card information opt for a credit card or a virtual card.

“Its better to pay a little bit more and do business with a reputable company that you know is going to standby their product and standby their customer,” said Johnson.

Avoid receiving counterfeit versions of your products or never receiving your item via the mail by making sure the website is listed on the Better Business Bureau website.

How do scammers trick parents out of their money?

These hot toys are sold out at every store you visit, so you turn to online shopping. A quick search takes you to a page that has the toy in stock. The site looks professional and has original images of the product on it. The site may even offer the product at discounted prices, claiming a “last-minute deal” or “flash sale,” but many of those offers are fake.

In many cases that have been reported to BBB.org/ScamTracker, buyers thought they were going to order a high-quality toy, but instead, they got a cheap counterfeit version. In some cases, the products were never shipped, and the websites were gone. When the customer tried to follow up with the company, they found that the staff either didn’t respond or refused to give a refund.

For example, one shopper told BBB Scam Tracker: “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.” 

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.