BBB Warns About Online Puppy Scams

(BETTER BUSINESS BUREAU RELEASE) - People are doing more and more shopping online, including for pets. A BBB investigation has found that tens of thousands of people have been victimized by online puppy scams, often originating overseas.

 

How does the scam work?

  • Online posting or website may be from an owner needing to find a new home for a pet or a breeder:
    • Most scams involve puppies, but people looking for cats, birds, or other pets are also at risk.
    • Pictures have often been pirated from legitimate breeders’ websites.
  • Consumer agrees to pay for the puppy and/or pay a transport fee up front. Ultimately loses the money and gets no pet.
  • The BBB study estimates that at least 80% of sponsored listings on the Internet may be fraudulent and there may be hundreds or thousands of fake websites.

 

Give us an example of someone victimized by the scam:

  • California lady saw a notice from a family in Baltimore saying they needed to find a new home for their teacup Yorkie.
  • She agreed to pay a $195 shipping fee.
  • After wiring the money, she got an email from a cargo company saying the animal needed a special crate.
  • She wired $240, only to receive another email saying the puppy had been transported to Oklahoma and she needed to pay for health insurance for the animal.
  • She paid a total of $968 before realizing the puppy didn’t exist and she’d been scammed.

 

What were some of the other findings?

  • Most of the scams appear to originate in the West African country of Cameroon and use workers in the U.S. to pick up wire payments sent through Western Union or MoneyGram.
  • The thieves require that correspondence be done by email, text messages or by phone. Any request to meet the seller or see the animal before making payment is rebuffed.
  • The thieves will continue asking for additional payments until the prospective buyer refuses further requests.
  • While victims can be of any age, reports show that those most susceptible to the scheme are in their late teens or early 20s.

 

What’s the BBB’s advice for avoiding this scam?

  • Research any business carefully before paying any money. Check the company’s BBB Business Profile at bbb.org.
  • Do an Internet search of the advertised picture to identify fraudulent offers.
  • Try to pick up the puppy in person. Puppy scams depend on buyers trusting that the animals will be delivered to them.
  • Be careful about buying a puppy from anyone you don’t know and be especially skeptical if the price is much lower than normal.
  • Avoid wiring money or using prepaid cards or gift cards to pay for transporting animals. Instead pay by credit card in case you need to challenge the purchase later.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE FROM THE BBB.


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