Scamwatch: Hatchimal fraud

Huge demand for Hatchimals prompts rash of online scams.

Watch out for dodgy Hatchimal deals this Christmas

Stay one step ahead of the fraudsters with our series of articles giving you the lowdown on the scams they use to trick people out of their hard-earned cash - and how to avoid being taken in by them.

This week, we report on the tricks parents need to look out for if they are trying to get their hands on Hatchimal toys in time for Christmas.

How does it work?

Hatchimals, which give children the chance to hatch out their very own creature from an egg, have become the "must have" toy for lots of children this Christmas.

Many retailers are already out-of-stock because demand for the toys is so high. And now, parents keen to fulfil their children's Christmas wishes are being targeted by fraudsters offering dodgy deals online.

Scams to look out for include "bait and switch" cons, which lure people in with the promise of a Hatchimal at a competitive price but are in fact designed to either extract information from the customer or simply run off with their payment.

There have also been reports of Facebook users being offered the chance to buy Hatchimals from other users, only to be ignored and blocked by the supposed sellers once a payment has been made.

How can I avoid being caught out?

Fraudsters appear to be searching social media sites such as Facebook for parents desperate to buy Hatchimals.

So it is probably best to avoid posting an update pleading for information about how to get the toys - either on your own page or in a group.

Other ways to protect yourself include checking up on any websites claiming to have Hatchimals available.

Trading Standards recommends only buying items from professional looking websites that include a landline contact number and details of a UK head office, while a quick online search will often throw up any problems with fraudulent sites.

I've been defrauded. What should I do?

If you are taken in by a Hatchimals scam, you should report it to the police by contacting Action Fraud (0300 123 2040).

One victim of a fake Facebook seller managed to get her money back by tracking down the perpetrator and reporting her to the police.

You should also contact your bank and any other relevant organisations to ensure those behind the scam cannot access your accounts.