Buying a puppy online is extremely risky, BBB warns
Better Business Bureau.
Demand for “quarantine puppies” and other pets has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to an increase in scams that have persisted even as virus lockdowns abated. Online pet scams – in which an online search ends with a potential pet owner paying hundreds of dollars or more to adopt a pet that ultimately doesn’t exist – are particularly prevalent during the holiday season, when families may be looking to add a furry family member as a gift. Better Business Bureau (BBB) ââadvises extreme caution when purchasing a pet online.
In addition to a shortage of available puppies due to high demand, earlier this year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suspended imports of dogs into the United States from countries deemed to be at high risk of rage. The United States typically imports 1 million dogs each year and has since updated the restrictions. People who currently buy pets online are very likely to come across a fraudulent ad in an online ad or website. Knowing the red flags associated with this scam can help people avoid heartache and loss of money.
BBB Scam Tracker online shopping scam reports have exploded during the COVID-19 pandemic, and pet scams account for 35% of those reports in 2021. Although reports of scams on pets are down slightly from 2020, they are expected to double this year to those reported in 2019, and more than four times as many were reported in 2017, when BBB published its first investigation into online scams concerning puppies. Scammers frequently take advantage of the high demand during the holidays by posting pictures of pets wearing Christmas hats and other gear. When a potential pet parent pursues registration, the scammer refuses to let the consumer meet the pet before purchasing – often citing COVID-19 considerations.
The scammer claims he must use a pet delivery agency, often an airline. BBB Scam Tracker has received numerous reports of bogus web pages masquerading as real companies for this purpose. The scammer may also charge a fee for vaccinations or other last minute “needs”. In the end, the animal does not exist, and the consumer has lost money and emotional investment. The largest group of victims by age is the 25-35 age group, followed by the 35-44 age group.
The average financial loss reported to BBB Scam Tracker was $ 1,088.
While 82% of scam reports involving pets involved dogs, others reported cats, birds, horses and iguanas. The tactics used in pet-related scams continue to evolve. Crooks increasingly demand payment through hard-to-find cash apps like Zelle, Google Pay, Cash App, Venmo, and Apple Pay. A review of BBB Scam Tracker data reveals that the vast majority of reports mentioned Zelle as a payment method involving the purchase of pets online.
A woman from St. Louis told BBB Scam Tracker in April 2021 that she paid a $ 500 deposit through Zelle for a cavapoo puppy she saw online. The seller sent him several photos, then requested the puppy’s balance through Zelle – a transaction that the potential buyer’s bank said was fraudulent. The woman requested a refund but never received it, and the puppy is still listed on the seller’s website.
A woman from Castro Valley, Calif., Said she lost $ 1,350 in the summer of 2021 when she and her husband tried to buy a Samoyed puppy online. The woman told BBB Scam Tracker that she had signed a contract to buy a puppy from a “breeder” who had contacted her by email; she paid the ârelieverâ $ 1,350 through Zelle. She said she knew she had been scammed when the “transport company” responsible for delivering the puppy contacted her and asked her to rent a temperature-controlled crate.
Pet scams are a global problem, with the UK and Australia reporting a sharp increase in pet scam complaints in 2020 and 2021. According to data from Petscams.com, many scams regarding pets are from Cameroon which tracks and lists puppy scams. Law enforcement agencies in the United States and abroad have worked to apprehend the pet crooks. In December 2020, the US Department of Justice announced criminal proceedings against a Cameroonian national living in Romania; among other tactics, the suspect claimed the pets he was selling had COVID-19 and asked potential buyers to purchase a “vaccine guarantee document.”
BBB recommendations for buying pets online:
â¢ See the animal in person before paying any money. Consider a video call with the seller if you are concerned about meeting in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This way you can see the seller and the animal for sale. More often than not, the crooks will not comply with the request and help to avoid a scam.
â¢ Perform a reverse image search of the animal’s photo and look for a distinctive phrase in the description.
â¢ Research the breed to get an idea of ââthe right price. Think twice if someone is advertising a purebred dog for free or at a very discounted priceâ¦ it could be a fraudulent offer. â¢ Check a local animal shelter for pets to meet in person before adopting.
â¢ BBB urges more law enforcement action against pet scammers.
â¢ The media and the public should help educate those looking for pets online by sharing BBB’s tips and studies.
Who to contact if you are the victim of a pet scam:
â¢ Petscams.com – petscams.com/report-pet-scam-websites tracks complaints, lists puppy scammers, and works to get fraudulent pet sales websites removed.
â¢ Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – reportfraud.ftc.gov to file a complaint online or call 877-FTC-Help.
â¢ Better Business Bureau – BBB Scam Tracker for reporting a scam online.
â¢ Your credit card issuer – report the incident if you shared your credit card number, even though the transaction was not completed.