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Counterfeit toys are a problem year-round, but during the holiday season the problem is especially pronounced. When people are trying to find those highly sought after toys, counterfeiters are hard at work trying to make cheap replicas that will fool a purchaser, and disappoint (and potentially harm) a recipient. Despite the best efforts of customs and other federal investigators, counterfeit toys do get through and get sold to unsuspecting consumers.
Some fake toys can look identical to the originals, but may contain differences that are imperceptible to the naked eye, such as using lead based paint. One of the biggest concerns when it comes to fake toys are the materials that get used. Toy safety is a highly regulated industry that requires manufacturers to comply with extensive safety regulations. Counterfeiters ignore these regulations which, in turn, put children's lives in peril.
Peace of Mind Comes at a Cost
While it may be enticing to get a great deal on a hot toy, you may want to think twice before making the purchase, especially if you are shopping online with a retailer you don't know, or through a site like EBay, or even Amazon's Marketplace. If a deal is too good, there's probably a catch. Generally, if you are shopping at a trusted retailer, while you may not get the same "good" deal you would from the unknown online vendor, you will get some peace of mind knowing that a reputable store is standing behind the product you buy. Even though you may be able to have EBay or Amazon help with making a return of a counterfeit product, this can be complicated, time consuming, and embarrassing if you gave the product as a gift.
What's worse, if the retailer and manufacturer vanish (counterfeiters seem to do that), and the counterfeited toy was obviously counterfeited, you, as the gift giver, may be the only person to be found legally liable for an injury.
How to Spot Counterfeit Toys
It may be impossible to spot a really good counterfeit, however a majority of counterfeits can be easily spotted with some attention to detail. When shopping online, this can be more difficult due to the fact that you may receive a different item than what was pictured. However, if you are in a store, temporary holiday market/fair, or buying toys out of someone's trunk, inspect the packaging and actual product if possible.
One of the simplest ways to know if a product is fake is to look for a typo, or misbranding, on the packaging. You can also find pictures online, using your smartphone, and compare pictures of the legitimate product (on the actual manufacturer's website) to the one in the store, looking for differences in coloring or other distinctive features.