Whether you call them bootlegs, knockoffs, or any other name, counterfeit toys are big business, and they have a nasty habit of infiltrating major online marketplaces.

New research conducted by Wakefield Research for The Toy Association reveals that nearly 1 in 3 toy-purchasing parents falsely believe that this is not the case. Fraudulent toys often slide under the radar via third-party marketplaces where they can wind up in the hands of kids. These toys often lead to disappointment and can lead to worse since many counterfeit toys do not pass safety tests.

“The U.S. toy community is committed to producing fun, developmentally valuable, and safe toys that comply with our nation’s 100+ rigorous toy safety standards and testing regimes. Rest assured that products sold by thousands of legitimate U.S. toy companies — whether in retail stores or online — are indeed safe,” says Steve Pasierb, president and CEO of The Toy Association. “Unfortunately, bad actors frequently outside our nation manage to infiltrate online marketplaces, so we continually alert and educate parents on how to protect themselves by purchasing toys only from honest, legitimate manufacturers and sellers. The Toy Association and our members remain relentlessly focused year-round on working with government agencies and leading e-commerce platforms to combat the issue of counterfeit products and rogue sellers.”

In an effort to educate toy buyers, The Toy Association has assembled a guide filled with helpful shopping tips starting with knowing who the seller is. For example, when you’re shopping a site such as Amazon, the seller may not be Amazon at all.

Toy Association Counterfeit Guide

Tips for Safe Toy Buying Online

Tip 1: Parents are advised to dig a little deeper into a lesser-known seller’s online presence and reviews to be sure the toy they are considering is authentic — and therefore, safe. Can’t find a website for the manufacturer or seller at hand? That’s one red flag. Multiple grammatical errors in a product description or poorly photoshopped pictures are more 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.

Worth the Risk?
Many parents admit that they might gamble on unverified sellers — and for reasons that cast safety aside. The top reasons parents would consider buying toys from unverified sellers include: the toys being out of stock everywhere else (32%) or if the toy was exactly what their children wanted (31%). Over a quarter (27%) of parents would be enticed if the unverified toy was simply cheaper.

TIP 2: 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.

TIP 3: After verifying that a seller is legitimate, parents should check the toy’s age recommendation and only select toys that match their child’s age and interests. 96% of parents surveyed are confident that their children can responsibly play with a toy even if they are younger than the toy’s age recommendation. Age grading is not based on a child’s intelligence, but rather on his or her developmental skills at a given age. Toys labeled 3 and up might contain small parts that are a choking hazard for children under age three or those who still mouth toys.

More toy safety tips can be found at playsafe.org.