That’s not Elmo | Source: The Toy Book

With the holiday shopping season upon us, The Toy Association is sending out a reminder that fake toys are a real problem. From counterfeits and bootlegs to knockoffs and imitations, the fugazis are everywhere, and what was once a back alley operation has gone high tech: fakes are hiding in plain sight on digital marketplaces.

New data from a survey conducted by Wakefield Research on behalf of The Toy Association says that 83% of parents say their kids receive toys from family members and other gift-givers who may have purchased them from unverified sellers. A more alarming statistic is that 45% of parents say that they’d keep toys even if it was a suspected counterfeit. The major concern is that fake toys may not have been tested for safety, unlike legitimate toys that are tested for compliance against more than 100 strict standards in the U.S.

“Products sold at retail by legitimate U.S. toy companies, whether in brick-and-mortar stores or online, are rigorously tested for compliance as part of our nation’s world-class safety system,” says Steve Pasierb, president & CEO of The Toy Association.  “Yet consumers must be vigilant as illicit sellers of counterfeit and dangerous imitation products have infiltrated online marketplaces, deceiving shoppers and gift-givers while posing a serious safety threat to children. The Toy Association works year-round with government agencies and leading e-commerce platforms to combat this menace and to educate shoppers on how to avoid unintentionally bringing unsafe fakes into the home.”

The Toy Association offers three major tips to shopping safely this holiday season.

  • Avoid Shady Sellers: Dig deep into a lesser-known seller’s online presence and reviews to be sure the toy under consideration is authentic, and therefore, safe. Can’t find a website for the manufacturer or seller? That’s one red flag. Multiple grammatical errors in a product description or poorly photoshopped pictures are also red flags. A great alternative is to visit the toy brand’s website and either purchase directly from the site or follow links to an official retailer to purchase. And remember: if a deal seems too good to be true, the product might be a counterfeit or imitation. A fake toy or cheaper alternative might be unsafe; it’s just not worth the risk.
  • Age Matters: Following the age labels on toy packaging can save kids from serious injury. For example, toys labeled “for ages 3 and up” might contain small parts that are a choking hazard for children under 3 (or those who still mouth toys). 26% of parents surveyed said their child has a received a toy intended for older children, proving that gift-givers need to be better educated on the importance of heeding age labels.
  • Avoid Dangerous Non-toy Gifts:  15% of parents surveyed said their child has received a gift that was not a toy. Yet items like office supplies, desk puzzles, home decorations, watches, and remote controls that are not meant for kids may contain small batteries and/or high-powered magnets that can be accessed by children and very dangerous if accidentally swallowed. Your best bet is to stick with purchasing toys intended for kids since there are strict federal standards in place to make sure those products are safe.

Additional safety information and tips can be found at playsafe.org.