How to spot counterfeit toys or games

Pretty much everything is in short supply this holiday season.

Supply chain issues have led to shortages of all kinds of toys, including Hot Wheels, LOL Doll, and Mario Kart racetrack sets.

So why not buy a nice knockoff if the toy or gadget is sold out?

The internet is full of counterfeits, but these imitating toys can be potentially dangerous.

Warning signs that a toy is not the real thing

Nikki Flemming is a member of the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). She says her agency is constantly working with customs and border protection in an effort to remove dangerous counterfeits.

“The CPSC is actually looking to keep consumers safe all year round, but especially during the holidays,” she said.

Flemming reminds people that due diligence is important.

“Consumers should start with a seller they know and trust,” she said. “Plus, if the price is too good to be true, it could be a counterfeit.”

The CPSC says warning signs of a counterfeit toy include:

  • The packaging is different from what you find on sites like Amazon or stores like Target
  • Spelling or grammatical errors on the packaging or in the product description
  • Manufacturer’s information is not clearly printed on the box, or there is no manufacturer listed
  • The item is in stock and the price is strangely low

Risks when buying a counterfeit

People may think that it is okay to buy a cheap imitation toy.

However, Flemming says many imitator toys are poorly made, contain sharp parts, or are painted with lead-based paint.

Some counterfeit toys also contain small parts that can present a choking hazard.

“The latest CPSC toy data shows approximately 150,000 injuries treated in hospital emergency departments in children under the age of 14 and nine toy-related deaths in 2020,” Fleming said.

Just recently, CPSC and customs officials discovered a large shipment of toys containing dangerous levels of lead. But they suspect the expedition may be just the tip of the iceberg.

Consumers should read reviews online – both positive and negative – and try to buy from a department store, not from an unknown seller, to protect themselves and others.

Consumers can also learn more about the warning signs and the risks of counterfeiting in the CPSC press release.

At the end of the line ? Sometimes that internet search for the nearly perfect toy can mean more than just wasting your money.

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