Most online ads for puppies are actually scams, according to a Better Business Bureau report released this week.
“All the BBBs across the country have recorded this scam on a regular basis, and it is increasing,” Steve Bernas, president and CEO of the Chicago bureau, told ABC News.
The report looked at listings for primarily puppies, but also kittens, parrots and other animals. Thousands of consumers have been scammed out of millions of dollars, ABC News reported.
There have been so many fraudulent listings that essentially anyone looking for a puppy online is likely to run into one, ABC News reported.
The report found that 80 percent of online ads for puppies are fake, with most originating in Cameroon in West Africa.
Those who responded to the fake listings are asked to first send money for a special shipping crate, insurance, vaccinations, medicine, food and water, ABC News reported. Some are even tricked into sending more money via Western Union, MoneyGram or gift cards, with threats of criminal charges if they don't.
Officials are preparing to see scams involving “free” homeless pets displaced by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, Bernas told ABC News.
To avoid scams, experts say prospective puppy owners should try a reverse image search of the included photo and avoid sellers who won't talk over the phone, won't let you see the dog in person or are offering a price too good to be true.