5 Tips for Avoiding an Online Puppy Scams
Stuck in quarantine? What better way to ease the loneliness of being at home than with an adorable puppy? Many families have turned to the internet to look for a pet, but buyers beware. Con artists know just the right heartstrings to pull, taking advantage of those making sight unseen online purchases.
It’s hard to believe that scammers would pull sweet, innocent puppies into the mix of online fraud…but it’s true. Scammers advertise on websites for pets that don’t exist and are never shipped. The COVID-19 pandemic has given scammers more opportunities to ask for money upfront. Scammers also make excuses as to why buyers can’t see the pet in person before heartbroken, would-be pet owners figure out they have been conned.
Better Business Bureau Serving the Pacific Southwest (BBB) warns consumers that consumer reported complaints have nearly doubled during the past few months. Victims claim to have lost hundreds to thousands of dollars in deposits, specialty crates, COVID-19 sanitation, insurance, shipping, and other fees. Since January 2020, BBB has received a total of 61 puppy scams reported on BBB Scam Tracker, and a loss of over $30k just in the Pacific Southwest region. BBB recommends the following tips to avoid getting caught in this tear-jerking scam.
5 tips for avoiding puppy scams on Facebook and other internet platforms:
- Visit the pet in person. Proper precautions can allow visitation with a possible pet, such as maintaining social distancing and wearing facial masks. Consumers can also ask to see a puppy over a live video chat. Use reverse image search to locate if the picture of the puppy appears on different sites.
- Avoid payment methods that can not trace the seller. Methods that offer no recourse and no way to get money back for victims of fraud include wire service, gift cards, or apps such as PayPal or Zelle. Credit cards may be accepted but fraudsters will steal the information to use it in other scams.
- Research breed prices. Purebred dogs advertised at discounted prices may be fraudulent. Look out for additional fees for services such as vaccination, shipping, special crating or COVID-19 related charges, which could be a sign of a scam.
- Reach out to local animal shelters. Adopting from verified shelters alleviates potential scam threats. Shelters are looking for families to adopt or foster, which helps reduce overcrowding at facilities. Humane Society of the United States refers consumers to local shelters.
- Report scams to BBB Scam Tracker and the Federal Trade Commission. Consumers also can report to petscams.com, which catalogs puppy scammers, tracks complaints, and endeavors to take down fraudulent pet sales websites.