Rossen Reports: We bought counterfeit toys, here’s how they look

Counterfeit toys are hitting the online shopping market in record numbers.


You’ve been warned… start your holiday shopping now!

Between the shipping crisis and toy shortages, you might be desperate to buy the first toy you see when shopping online. Before you click the "buy" button, be careful of counterfeit sellers ready to pounce on your holiday desperation.

Counterfeit toys are hitting the online shopping market in record numbers. The Buy Safe America Coalition collected data that shows $1.5 billion worth of counterfeit toys were imported to the U.S. last year.

Rossen Reports worked with the Toy Association who represents businesses that design, produce, license, and deliver toys to help shoppers identify counterfeits before they make it to your doorstep.

WATCH ABOVE: Our Chief National Consumer Correspondent Jeff Rossen bought counterfeit toys and the legitimate version of the toy online to see if we could spot the difference. Plus, find out how you can protect yourself with some of our tips from toy shopping experts.

Here are some bonus tips:

  • Sold By: If you’re shopping on Amazon, scroll down to the box on the right-hand side of the screen. Right there, you can see who it’s sold by. Click on the name to make sure it’s a legitimate business with a real address and contact information.
  • Brand or Manufacturer: This is important if you’re buying something with a "big name" like Marvel action figures or Super Mario toys. Under the title of the toy, make sure the link is of a name you recognize. Like "Brand: Marvel" or "Hasbro" or "Mattel." Click on that link as well. For some of the larger toymakers, Amazon will put a link to its store underneath the title of the toy. For example, "Visit the Melissa and Doug Store" or "Visit the LEGO Store."
  • Check the toy: You’ve already made the purchase, it’s on your doorstep — but you’re not so sure about it. Take a look at the toy to make sure the brand and manufacturer are located on the toy. On the counterfeit toy trucks we bought, the "Fisher-Price" logo and "Nickelodeon" logo were both missing.
  • Packaging: Most legitimate toys will have pictures of their packing in the photo gallery.
  • Blurry Pictures: Experts say, if the pictures in the photo gallery are hard to see and too blurry, it’s best to steer clear.
  • Look at the reviews: Other customers will post their reviews of the toys. They will also post pictures so you can see exactly what you’re getting.
  • Price: We all want a good deal. But if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. If you’re seeing that toy for $35 everywhere online, but you can get it for $7, it’s probably a knockoff.

Spotting counterfeit toys is not only about quality but about safety too. We talked to Jennifer Gibbons, the Senior Vice President for Government Affairs at the Toy Association, about this.

"There are real dangers to giving your child a counterfeit toy," Gibbons said.

Why? It’s very unlikely that counterfeit toys have gone through the more than 100 safety tests that are required to sell toys to brick and mortar stores.

"Without that testing, how do you ensure your child is playing with a product that is not going to be a small part hazard? If it were to break, not create sharp edges that could injure a child? Be an electrical hazard? You can’t count on that with a counterfeit product." Gibbons added.

Michael Hanson is the Senior Executive Vice President for the Retail Industry Leaders Association and Spokesperson for the Buy Safe America Coalition.

"The sale of counterfeit products is growing because more and more people are buying online," Hanson said. "Consumer lose twice. Criminals are getting onto these marketplaces and consumers don’t have the information they need to see if they can vet out and not buy these counterfeit products."

The Buy Safe America Coalition is urging Congress to pass the INFORM Consumers Act. This bipartisan legislation would modernize consumer protection laws and require online marketplaces to collect and verify basic business information from sellers, making it harder for con artists and foreign enterprises to target American consumers with fake products on leading online marketplaces.

"We want consumers to be able to shop with confidence that the gifts they're buying are safe for their families — counterfeit goods are only going to increase unless there’s some type of legislation that tamps down on this," Hanson said.

The best advice? Shop early, shop safe and stay vigilant so you get the toys you really want this holiday season.

More about the Toy Association:

The Toy Association, Inc. is the not-for-profit trade association representing all businesses that design, produce, license, and deliver toys and youth entertainment products for kids of all ages. Our 950+ members drive the annual $32.6 billion U.S. domestic toy market, and our organization has a long history of propelling the health and growth of the toy industry, which has an annual U.S. economic impact of $98.6 billion. The group is the industry’s voice on the developmental benefits of play and the global leader in toy safety. Its mission statement reads in part: “Our Mission is to be a unifying force for members’ creativity, responsibility, and global success, advocating for their needs and championing the benefits of play.”

More about the Buy Safe America Coalition:

The Buy Safe America Coalition represents a diverse group of responsible retailers, consumer groups, manufacturers, intellectual property advocates and law enforcement officials who support efforts at all levels of government to protect consumers and communities from the sale of counterfeit and stolen goods. The group works with its partners and policymakers to support verified seller standards, ensure third-party sellers provide verified contact information to consumers and push for greater resources and better collaboration among law enforcement to target sophisticated criminal rings and organized retail crime.