Leading up to the holiday season means that lots of people or shopping online, even more so than usual. This also gives new opportunities to scammers. There has been a very informative and eye-opening discussion on the LEGO Ambassador Forum about all the fake LEGO shopping websites popping up on a pretty much daily basis. Below, I have included some information about the different type of scams you may run into, as well as LEGO’s response to this growing problem.
➡ SAFE PLACES TO LOOK FOR LEGO ONLINE: If you regularly shop for LEGO online, you most likely already have the Online LEGO Shop saved in your favorite links. You can also safely reach the Online LEGO Shop via well-known LEGO forums and blogs, as they link directly to the Online LEGO Shop via their affiliate link (they earn a small commission on sales which helps support their efforts). Other popular places to shop for LEGO online are Amazon and the websites of large retailers like Wal-Mart and Target. And there are also some smaller online retailers and toy shops that may carry LEGO in their inventory. In general, it is best to visit these websites by directly typing their address into your browser’s address bar.
➡ UNSAFE PLACES TO LOOK FOR LEGO ONLINE: People usually end up on unsafe websites by either clinking on a link from an email, or via links they find on social media (either ads or links forwarded by friends). Currently, the favorite place for fraudsters is Facebook. They place ads enticing buyers with too-good-to-be-true prices (see the image above with 80% off sale on some of the most desirable large LEGO sets!). Sadly, these ads are often circulated by friends and family who are just trying to be helpful. The links from the ads take unsuspecting shoppers to websites that look almost exactly the same as LEGO’s own online shop, except for the ridiculously low prices. Being excited by the deals, people fail to notice that they are on a fake website, giving their name, address, and credit card information to fraudsters. Of course, they won’t be receiving anything after they placed their order, and their personal information will be used in other scams as well.
➡ HOW TO AVOID FAKE LEGO WEBSITES: Do not click on links from Facebook or other social media ads. If LEGO is running a sale, you can go directly to their website, and find all the sales under the items for sale tab of the Online LEGO Shop. LEGO does not run social media-specific sales. You can avoid pretty much all scams by just this one method. If you do end up clicking on a link from an ad, check the address bar of your browser to make sure you are actually on LEGO’s website. This method is not foolproof as scammers often make their web address something like legofanstore.com, or legodeals.com, or legoengland.com, or legovipclub.com (see image below). To be clear the actual Online LEGO Shop address always starts with shop.lego.com. If the ad you find on social media is not imitating LEGO but another toy retailer, you should still follow the same steps. Go to the website directly and look for the sale there, and check the address bar to confirm that you are on the actual website of the retailer.
➡ LEGO’S RESPONSE TO FAKE LEGO WEBSITES: LEGO’s legal department is actively fighting these fake websites, however when they finally force one to be taken down, two new ones pop up. Educating consumers is the best way to fight this epidemic, and the LEGO Legal Department made the following statement:
We are aware of the existence of websites that mislead consumers in different ways and we take all of these incidents very seriously. While we cannot comment on our specific actions, what we can say is that when we are made aware of or observe any situation where consumers are misled and our intellectual rights are violated we always take the appropriate actions to protect consumers as well as our brand.
We believe that consumers should always be aware of when they are purchasing a genuine LEGO product and when they purchase something else – and they should not be misled during the process of purchase.
We are aware that it may be difficult to identify a fake website, but if in doubt, consumers can be certain that the official LEGO shop on www.shop.LEGO.com is genuine.
➡ OTHER LEGO SHOPPING SCAMS: There are other LEGO shopping scams going on as well – again, mostly circulated on Facebook. The Chinese company Lepin has been making exact replicas of genuine LEGO sets, selling them for about half the price of official LEGO products. LEGO is actively fighting Lepin for the blatant copy of their products, but fighting for IP rights in China is a difficult and lengthy process. While some online Lepin resellers will ship actual products, others are fake websites that will only steal your personal info and won’t ship anything. Lepin and other Chinese companies are also running another scam, where they copy the creations of LEGO fans and sell them as their own products, giving no credit or compensation to the original creator. Here, also, there are two variations; you will either receive a product made of fake LEGO elements of varying quality, or you won’t receive anything but your personal information will get stolen.
In summary, fake websites that pretend to look like LEGO’s own website selling LEGO sets for too-good-to-be-true prices should be avoided, as these are always scams. Purchase LEGO sets either directly from LEGO, or from reputable retailers. If in doubt about a link from an ad, visit the website directly. Purchasing sets with models that were stolen from LEGO or from LEGO fans is a possibility, but it severely hurts the hobby and the people involved in it. LEGO fans are already much less willing to share detailed pictures and instructions for their designs because of fear of their model being stolen. In the video below, well-known LEGO Technic fan Sariel discusses his models being stolen, and unfortunately, there are many other examples.
On a brighter note, look out for LEGO sales and special offers during the holiday season both directly from LEGO and reputable retailers. There are always great offers this time of the year, like Double VIP Points, freebies, clearance sales, etc. And, if you are interested in unique custom designs, it is best to contact the creator to ask if they would be willing to share instructions, support their projects on LEGO Ideas, or purchase custom models and instructions through the various LEGO fan sites that offer them.
What do you think? Did you ever run into any fake LEGO websites, fishy ads, or offers that were clearly scammy? Feel free to share your own experiences and discuss in the comment section below!
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