BBB issues warning about spike in pet scams

December 03, 2020 - 7:03 am
BBB issues warning about spike in pet scams

The Better Business Bureau is warning consumers about a spike in pet scams.  In a release the BBB says the global pandemic has increased the demand for pets to ease loneliness of prolonged time isolated.  With this rising demand has come a spike in pet scams, in which an online search ends with a would-be pet owner paying hundreds of dollars or more to purchase a pet that ultimately doesn’t exist. 

A Wichita man reported to BBB in April that he used the mobile payment app Zelle to pay $940 for a French bulldog puppy from scammers who used a bogus, but legitimate-looking, website to handle shipping for the puppy that never arrived. BBB data shows the average amount that people lost in these scams in 2020 was $750 with half of the victims between the ages of 35 and 55. 

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In 2017, the BBB recorded 884 pet scam reports worth less than a half million dollars in losses. By contrast, in 2020 there have already been 3,969 reports resulting in losses of over 2.8 million dollars.  

The BBB offered several tips to help avoid being scammed.

Ask to see the pet in person before paying any money. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, consider a video call with the seller so you can see the seller and the actual pet for sale. Since scammers are not likely to comply with the request, this may help avoid a scam.

Do a reverse image search of the photo of the pet.  Right click on the image and select "search Google for image." If there are more than a few results of the same image... it is a scam.

Do research to get a sense of a fair price for the breed you are considering. Think twice if someone advertises a purebred dog for free or at a deeply discounted price. Those are sure indicators of a scam.

And first and foremost, it isn't difficult to legitimately adopt a pet.  Check out a local animal shelter online for pets you can meet before adopting.

For anyone who may have been the victim of a pet scam, the BBB suggests that they first contact their bank and credit card company, if a credit or debit card was used in the purchase. tracks complaints, catalogues puppy scammers and endeavors to get fraudulent pet sales websites taken down.  And visit the BBB Scam Tracker to report any scam online.  

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