BBB advises caution if shopping for a pet online

Written by Chronicle Staff. Posted in Community News & People in the News, Pets

Published on August 03, 2021 with No Comments

The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically increased demand for pets as people seek adding a pet to the family to ease the loneliness and tension of prolonged time at home. Many feel that they now have more time to train a puppy. 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. Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises extreme caution when shopping for a pet online, especially in light of scammers’ evolving tactics. 

The median loss reported to BBB Scam Tracker in 2020 is $750. Those aged 35 to 55 accounted for half of BBB reports in 2020.  

A Greenwood woman found herself victimized by a puppy scam and reported to BBB Scam Tracker, “I purchased a 13 week old St Bernard and was told I would have a puppy within 2 days from El Paso, Texas. After pouring $4549 into the puppy and delivery I still did not receive puppy after refusing to send more money.”  

With the increase in scam activity has come an evolution in tactics. BBB Scam Tracker data indicates that mobile payment apps like Zelle and CashApp are often used now, whereas Western Union or MoneyGram wire transfers were popular payment methods documented in the 2017 study. Both Zelle and CashApp have issued warnings about pet scams. In addition, pet scammers now commonly use online advertising tools such as sponsored links to boost their fraudulent listings in search results. 

Fraudsters have also made COVID-19-related money requests for items such as special climate-controlled crates, insurance and a (non-existent) COVID-19 vaccine, according to Scam Tracker reports. There also were instances where purchasers wanted to pick up the pet but were told that wasn’t possible due to COVID-19 restrictions. 

BBB recommendations for

buying pets online: 

• 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 and search for a distinctive phrase in the description. 

• 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 … it could be a fraudulent offer. 

• Check out a local animal shelter online for pets you can meet before adopting. 

• BBB urges more law enforcement action against pet scammers. 

• The media and public should help to educate those looking for pets online by sharing BBB’s tips and study. 

Who to contact if you are the victim of a pet scam:

•, complaints, catalogues puppy scammers and endeavors to get fraudulent pet sales websites taken down. 

• Federal Trade Commission (FTC), to file a complaint online or call 877-FTC-Help. 

• Better Business Bureau – BBB Scam Tracker to report a scam online. 

• Your credit card issuer if you provided your credit card number, even if the transaction was not completed.

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