Purchasing a furry friend for the family during the holiday season has always come with risks, but a new report from the Better Business Bureau shows that scams involving online pet purchases are on the rise.
The BBB’s Scam Tracker page has reported a surge in entries regarding fake pet and puppy scams for this holiday season.
Reports have increased by 39 percent since the BBB released an in-depth investigative study to increase consumer awareness in 2017. More than 16,500 complaints have been received regarding illegitimate sellers and “businesses” selling pets.
What’s more alarming are the estimates showing that only 10 percent of victims actually report the crime, so the problem is most likely more widespread, the BBB says.
Victims of pet and puppy scams lose an average of $520, and the highest individual amount lost was reported to be $2,395. Total 2019 losses to pet and puppy scams in the Metropolitan New York amount to more than $15,000.
Typically, the scam begins when the victim browses online pet ads. Once the victim responds to an ad to inquire about the animal, they are asked to send funds through services like Western Union or Moneygram in order to complete the purchase.
The “seller” claims that the animal will be shipped immediately, but in these types of scams, unexpected “problems” continue to arise that require further funding, such as pet insurance, shipping costs, etc. The scammer claims to refund the unexpected money when the pet arrives, but in many cases, neither the pet nor the refund is received.
The BBB recommends these tips to protect yourself from pet-related purchasing scams:
- Use extreme caution when purchasing a pet from a stranger or through an online ad. Whenever possible, look for an established, reputable breeder with solid credentials and ask to meet the seller in person.
- Under no circumstances should you wire money to people or parties you don’t personally know. Once funds have been wired, they’re gone for good. If possible, use a credit card so that the charges can be disputed.
- Look up the image of the pet you’re considering through an Internet search. If the same photo appears on multiple websites, consider it a major red flag.
- Do thorough research regarding the average price points of the pet type you’re considering. Purebred dogs advertised at steep discounts are likely to be fraudulent offers.
- If you become a victim of a pet purchasing scam, report it to the BBB Scam Tracker and file a police report as soon as possible.
“Adorable pets like puppies can really pull your heartstrings,” said Claire Rosenzweig, President and CEO of the BBB Serving Metropolitan New York. “In the excitement of shopping for a pet as a holiday surprise, it’s easy to miss the step of checking out the seller – but it’s really vital to do that research, so your surprise won’t become a terrible disappointment.”
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