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With the Christmas shopping season quickly approaching, the National Consumer Affairs Center is warning people to be careful when buying toys online in order to avoid being defrauded.

As of Monday, the agency said it had received 177 complaints about online toy purchases — an increase of 8 percent compared with the same time last year.

“As smartphones become increasingly popular, the number of problems surrounding online shopping is increasing,” NCAC spokesman Yosuke Endo said.

A mother in her 30s reported buying a medal for the popular video game “Yo-Kai Watch” that generates a character when the QR code printed on it is scanned by a game console. While the medal was described in an online shopping platform as brand new, she found it had actually been opened and could not be used, Endo said.

“If she had bought the medal from a toy store, she could have gotten a warranty and returned it,” he said. “However, for individual deals like this, you aren’t protected by consumer laws” that guarantee a customer’s right to cancel an unfair deal.

Games featuring medals have been all the rage among children since this summer, led by Bandai Namco Holding Inc.’s megahit “Yo-Kai Watch.”

With demand for the game outstripping the manufacturer’s supplies, parents have had trouble finding the medals. They have taken to lining up early in the morning to purchase them at stores or dealing with unknown sellers online.

The medals can normally be purchased for around ¥100. However, some of the rarest “legend” medals fetch more than ¥30,000 in online auctions.

Each medal has a QR code on the back. By scanning it with a game console, players can summon “yokai” (monsters) in the video game to do battle with others. Some fans simply enjoy collecting the coins for their own sake.

“We have recognized only a few cases of trouble since because some customers won’t report to NCAC,” Endo said, adding that this is probably because such incidents usually involve only a small amount of money.

“Customers need to be careful of the risks in online shopping, and about warranties that online shopping services provide,” Endo warned. “Sometimes you can’t use the purchased products, or in some cases you don’t even receive the product you ordered.”

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