Watch out for fakes of hot toys this holiday season, consumer advocacy group warns

Counterfeit toys may not be up to safety standards, experts say.

ByRenee Koury KGO logo
Thursday, November 11, 2021
Advocacy group warns of fake toys this holiday season
There's concern the supply chain shortage could bring more counterfeit toys to the marketplace. Experts say some fakes can be dangerous.

SAN FRANCSICO (KGO) -- We've heard about supply chain problems leading to shortages of many products. That includes children's toys, and as we head to the holidays, there's concern it could bring more counterfeits to the marketplace.

A consumer group offered some ways to spot a fake in its annual "Trouble in Toyland" report Thursday.

The California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG) says toys are much safer these days -- but you can never relax.

RELATED: Toy shortages among reasons to start holiday shopping now, experts say

One of this year's issues is fake versions of out-of-stock items.

We've seen the ships stuck at the ports, the empty shelves at the store.

Now toymakers say shop early, because many toys will be out of stock... which could open the way for more fakes.

VIDEO: 'Shop early, shop now': Businesses brace for holidays during global supply chain nightmare

South Bay businesses are bracing for the holidays, explaining that goods are taking weeks, if not months, longer to arrive to their stores.

CALPIRG's Sander Kusher says counterfeiters typically take advantage of parents during holiday shopping seasons.

"As we do have these supply chain issues, counterfeits are out there in growing numbers," he says.

"While not every counterfeit is dangerous, it should cause concern for parents," he says.

Fake toys might look like the real thing, but they can be poorly made and don't adhere to our strict toy safety standards.

RELATED: How shoppers will feel the impact of supply chain issues this holiday season

They may break or contain small parts that present a choking hazard, or they may contain toxic chemicals and lead.

"As we shop online and shop earlier we need to be cognizant the counterfeits are out there," says Kusher.

Kusher says most fakes are sold online where they're harder to detect.

"Spotting counterfeits can be difficult, but we have some tips," Kusher says.

  • First, look at who's selling the toys on internet marketplaces, check their websites and reviews
  • Be wary of ads on social media platforms
  • Look for misspellings and bad grammar on their ads
  • Avoid toys priced far cheaper than the toymaker's prices
  • Try to buy directly from the toymaker's website, just to be sure

Read the full CALPIRG report here.

Read the The Toy Association statement in regards to the U.S. PIRG 2021 Trouble in Toyland Report below:

U.S. PIRG's report fails to mention that U.S. toy safety requirements are among the strictest in the world. All toys sold in the United States, no matter where they are produced, must conform to rigorous safety standards and laws.

These safety requirements include, but are not limited to:
  • A highly effective small parts regulation that was adopted internationally and has on multiple occasions been reviewed by doctors and other specialists, and found to be appropriately protective

  • A longstanding federal law that requires batteries in toys for young children to be kept inaccessible

  • Strict standards prohibiting the use of strong magnets in any toy part that is small enough to be swallowed

  • Internationally emulated limits on sound level output (which are not appropriately applied by PIRG in their analysis of sound levels in toys)

Misleading information in PIRG's report includes:
  • The inclusion of many items that have been voluntarily recalled or discontinued by companies and are no longer available for purchase from legitimate sellers. The toy industry has a remarkable record of producing safe product - typically, only 0.003 percent of the three billion toys sold in the U.S. each year are recalled. Nonetheless, recalls remain a critical safety net that is part of a robust system designed to keep children safe.

  • The inclusion of several items that are not toys, thus undermining the toy industry's deep and ongoing commitment to safety. These non-toy items include adult magnets, latex balloons, gaming consoles, and batteries found in household products, all of which are not subject to the same rigorous standards as toys.

  • Misleading claims about the safety of Internet-connected toys, naming product issues dating back several years; including discontinued and non-toy products as examples; and failing to underscore current FTC guidance that subjects internet-connect children's products to the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) (which includes provisions governing both privacy and data security)

The Toy Association agrees that counterfeit toys lurking online have the potential to be unsafe and should be avoided at all costs. The Toy Association continues to urge parents to shop only from reputable brands and sellers, whether in stores or online, whose toys comply with over 100 different safety standards and tests required by law.

Parents are also advised to check and follow the age-grading on toy packaging. Toys labeled 3+ may contain small parts that can be a choking hazard for children under three. Parents should use a federally-approved Small Parts Tester (available online) to test small objects found around the home - not a toilet paper roll (as PIRG suggests). And if there is no age label on the packaging or in the online description, it is not a legitimate toy (or it is not a product intended for children under 12) and it should not be given to a child.

Safety is the toy industry's top priority every day of the year. For more safety tips, visit

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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