Puppy scams: Better Business Bureau warns of online fraud in furry form
COLUMBIA - For people with a pet on their last-minute gift list, the Better Business Bureau is warning about scams to look out for.
"Few things pull at a person's heartstrings like an adorable puppy or cuddly kitten. Scammers know this," the BBB said in a press release Friday.
A recent BBB study found some ads abut pets may be fake. Some scammers claim to be breeders, others pretend to be distraught pet owners who must quickly find a new home for their dog or cat, the BBB said.
The press release says the scammers ask potential buyers to wire money to complete a purchase and then claim "unexpected problems," such as an airline requirement for a specific pet crate or an expensive vet visit.
In each case, the BBB said, the scammers promise to return the unexpected costs as soon as the pet is delivered. But, in many cases, neither the pet nor refund arrives.
“Scammers love to try to take advantage of people when they are in high emotion situations,” said Michelle Corey, president and CEO of BBB serving Eastern & Southwest Missouri & Southern Illinois. “The excitement of buying a new pet can cloud good judgement, and victims can be hurt financially and emotionally when they realize they have lost their money, and hopes for a new pet.”
Data show the BBB got nearly 10,000 complaints and scam reports related to the sale of puppies and dogs in the last three years. The Federal Trade Commission reports only 10 percent of victims report such crimes.
BBB recently conducted an investigative study of online puppy scams. It looked at the scope of this problem, who is behind it, and the need for heightened enforcement and consumer education to address the issue.
Tips to avoid pet scams include:
- Never wire money to people or companies you don't know and trust
- Do an internet search of the picture of the pet your considering to see if it appears on multiple websites
- Research prices for the breed you are interested in adopting or purchasing.
“Buying a pet is a process and scammers do their best to get straight to your finances,” said Brandi Hunter, VP of PR and Communications, American Kennel Club. “If something sounds too good to be true, it likely is. Responsible sources will take some time and diligence, but it will lead to the best end result of finding the dog that will fit your family.”
Anyone who believes they are the victim of a puppy scam can report it to BBB Scam Tracker.