Buyer Beware: Puzzle Problems with Pretenders!

Scams! Covid-19 has brought up the most incredible scams. We won't get into all of them right now, but we do want to highlight one in particular so you can protect your wallet!

There have been numerous websites that pretend to sell Cobble Hill puzzles, but they are clearly untrustworthy companies.  We wanted to call them predators, but it sounded so scary, so we kept it light and call them "pretenders".  It's quite possible that they'll "sell" you a puzzle, take your money, and you'll never see a copy of the puzzle.  The websites that we're talking about are ones that have just quickly put up a storefront, stolen copyrighted images from either our website, social media accounts, or another retailer's store. We are quite certain that they are not legitimate operations, but rather pretending to have actual inventory. 

I'm sure that many of you reading this blog know exactly what I'm talking about. In fact, some of you wonderful puzzlers have even reported the pretenders to us, for which we are so thankful!  

So, what can be done about these fake websites?  While we have been successful at getting several of them removed, others are trickier. We'll give you an example of one that we're trying to take down now and show you some things to look for when you're determining whether to purchase a puzzle from the company or not.

1. The Logo
First of all, if you're familiar with our Cobble Hill puzzles and you see one of our boxes with a logo missing - euh, that's a pretty BIG clue right there!  Do not buy puzzles where the brand's logo has been altered in any way (see the red circled area) below for The Witching Hour. Big clue! If they're trying to hide that from you, what else are they hiding!

2. The Brand Name
Another good indicator could be the omission of naming the puzzle brand.  Most companies who sell online will give you various specifics about the puzzle including the manufacturer name and/or the artist's name - they're not afraid of giving credit where it's due. Fake websites are often infringing on copyright and "stealing" images, like the puzzle box above and even the image to the right of it with the couple enjoying a puzzle together - that belongs to Cobble Hill. There is no mention of any puzzle brand or artist in the description of this puzzle.

3. The Contact Info
Also, look for the contact information. If it's a reputable company, they'll have an email address with their company name after the "@".  For example: info@legitimatecompany versus (looks like someone just randomly typed letters). See below.. really, 

4. The Images
If you see a distinct image or video that you know you saw on social media from a puzzler, then there's a good chance that image or video was ripped off - so question the website. Another key factor - at least for Cobble Hill puzzles specifically, is if you're familiar with our puzzles, then you know we have a signature fun(ky) random cut pattern. Our puzzles are not ribbon cut with every piece lining up in a neat row/column grid.  So the image below is definitely not one of ours as this is a ribbon cut style on our "Marmaduke" puzzle by Geoffrey Tristram.  

Fake Marmaduke puzzle ribbon cut

5. The WhoIs Lookup
If all of that isn't enough to make you at least question the website, then you can also check the WhoIs Lookup and see when this site was created.  You can gather different pieces of information to see if this instinctively "feels right" to you.  There are several legitimate retailers who have created websites recently, but if you're looking to buy from a US or Canadian company and the website shows a recent "Creation Date" with the server in China or the registrar's name includes "Beijing"... we're going to venture to guess that there are better options for you. Buyer beware! 

You'll have to use your common sense and gut instinct on some of these websites. And if you're a part of a puzzle group/community, it may not hurt to ask around first to see if anyone is familiar with the website. If you know the brand for that image, then you can also contact the company - like some puzzlers have done with us. It gives us a chance to hunt down the pretender and get the site removed or at least cripple it in some way. 

As of posting this blog today, we went to check on a website that we were working to take down and we have an update!!  Last week, we dug further on the "pretender" above and found the actual host for this website. We submitted a DMCA takedown notice on July 17th to the ISP (copyright issues with our images).  It looks like as of July 21st, they have removed our images. Yay! While that's a little win for us, it looks like the website it still up and running with the ability to purchase puzzles - so not a complete win for you, the shopper. However, who would buy from the website if the below image is what you would see?? From all the surveys we have done, we know image is the basic reason why everyone chooses a puzzle! Can you imagine what you would receive, if anything, if you ordered from this website? Why would this website still be up and running?? So weird... so, so, weird... 

Well, thanks for joining us on our adventure today. Enjoy your day all & stay safe! Happy puzzling!
1 comment:
  1. I ordered a Cobble Hill puzzle about 10 days ago and it arrived yesterday. We LOVE Cobble Hill but when we received the puzzle our first clue it wasn't a "TRUE" Cobble Hill was the Box Size. Next in the lower right hand corner it states it is a Jack Pine Puzzle. Therre is no guide map and the quality of the puzzle does NOT represent Cobble Hill. The pieces are extremely small, not the fancy linen finish and the puzzle is extremely THIN AND CHEAP. We are so disappointed. I purchased through Amazon and it clearly stated Cobble Hill Puzzle. I only purchase Cobble Hill, Ravensburger and Springbot puzzles. We glue our puzzles, frame them, hang them or give them away as gifts. Now I have a tiny piece junk puzzle and it will end up in the trash. What happened to the quality of Cobble Hill and who or what is Jack Pine? This is clearly misleading when ordering on Amazon. How do I know if my next Conble Hill will be a TRUE COBBLE HILL puzzle? I feel like I was ripped off. Anyone at Cobble Hill want to look into the puzzle I ordered? It came in a small square box, no puzzle map/guide and it is Amazon:Cobble Hill 70038 - "Two for the Road"
    When I see Cobble Hill I assume a nice fancy puzzle and the Jack Pine was the Artist? I would like a REAL Cobble Stone Puzzle. Please reply, Tammy Gibbs