Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point
On Air
Low Graphics

Friday, December 4, 1998 Published at 11:03 GMT


Fake toys flood market

Tiger Electronics warns against buying Furbies off the street

Shoppers are being warned that international criminal gangs from as far apart as Poland, Turkey, Italy and Indonesia are producing tens of thousands of fake toys to cash in on the Christmas demand.

Officers from the National Criminal Intelligence Service believe the money is being used to buy illegal drugs or is being diverted into money laundering operations.

Toys, such as Beanie Babies and the furry interactive pets called Furbies, are in considerable demand as Christmas approaches.

Some Beanie Babies have limited production runs, making them attractive to collectors who are prepared to pay high prices - and pushing up the value for counterfeiters.

Customers could pay up to £100 for a single fake product, NCIS officers said.

[ image: Some Beanies are
Some Beanies are "retired" and become collectors items
Up to £4m worth of fake Beanie Babies have been seized in Britain and Holland in the run-up to Christmas, according to officers.

Darren Couzens of NCIS's Interpol London office warned that production of counterfeit toys was linked to money laundering.

"We are very concerned that the UK is being targeted as an outlet for these counterfeit products," he said.

"The children's toys could prove to be dangerous, taking aside the issue of the known links to serious and organised crime such as drug importation and money laundering."

He urged people wanting to buy toys to go to reputable retailers and to purchase only goods with the marks of authentic products to ensure that they were not aiding criminals.

Among the fake Beanies being sold are Britannia Bear, which has a Union Jack on the front and can sell for up to £200 to collectors, and Maple Bear, which sports the Canadian flag and is not sold in the UK.

Princess Bears are also being counterfeited. The manufacturer, Ty, donates profits from sales of genuine Princess Bears to the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund, meaning that the counterfeiters are depriving the charity of cash.

Warning signs

A spokeswoman for Ty advised customers to go to a reputable stockist where all of the company's products are on display.

"They should try and buy Beanies for the correct prices," she added. The toys retail for between £4 and £6, she told BBC News Online.

The manufacturer of Furbies, Tiger Electronics, says it is not aware of any fakes entering the country but adds it is monitoring the situation closely.

Like Ty, Tiger is also advising buyers to seek out the toys from recognised independent retailers.

Spokeswoman Emma Carle said: "It's a highly technical toy so it should be easy to spot a fake as it won't be able to do everything a real Furby can."

Genuine Furbies contain two chips to make them perform, and counterfeiters are not going to be able to replicate these, she added.

Customers should look for original sealed packaging and safety certificates to be sure they are buying the genuine article, she advised.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

UK Contents

Northern Ireland

Relevant Stories

19 Nov 98†|†The Economy
Toy Story: The Christmas hits

19 Nov 98†|†UK
Pester power rules

Internet Links

National Criminal Intelligence Service

British Association of Toy Retailers

Beanie Babies official site

Furbies official site

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Next steps for peace

Blairs' surprise over baby

Bowled over by Lord's

Beef row 'compromise' under fire

Hamilton 'would sell mother'

Industry misses new trains target

From Sport
Quins fightback shocks Cardiff

From Business
Vodafone takeover battle heats up

IRA ceasefire challenge rejected

Thousands celebrate Asian culture

From Sport
Christie could get two-year ban

From Entertainment
Colleagues remember Compo

Mother pleads for baby's return

Toys withdrawn in E.coli health scare

From Health
Nurses role set to expand

Israeli PM's plane in accident

More lottery cash for grassroots

Pro-lifers plan shock launch

Double killer gets life

From Health
Cold 'cure' comes one step closer

From UK Politics
Straw on trial over jury reform

Tatchell calls for rights probe into Mugabe

Ex-spy stays out in the cold

From UK Politics
Blair warns Livingstone

From Health
Smear equipment `misses cancers'

From Entertainment
Boyzone star gets in Christmas spirit

Fake bubbly warning

Murder jury hears dead girl's diary

From UK Politics
Germ warfare fiasco revealed

Blair babe triggers tabloid frenzy

Tourists shot by mistake

A new look for News Online