Better Business Bureau warns of puppy scam spike due to the pandemic

Virginia sees 27 puppy scams since March with a total of $8,000 scammed

ROANOKE, Va. – The national Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker shows more fraud pet website reports in April than the first three months of 2020 combined. The number may be higher because not everyone reports that they’ve been scammed.

In Virginia, 27 puppy scams were reported since this March with more than $8,000 dollars scammed; one victim is in Roanoke.

A 2017 BBB study shows 80% of sponsored links for pet searches are a scam. That’s why the BBB warns about shopping online for a pet.

If you see a fraudulent site, report it here on the BBB Scam Tracker.

“Even if you didn’t send money, just report that you came across a fraudulent site because that gives us the ability to work through it and if there’s enough heat put on, that title get shut down,” said Julie Wheeler, President and CEO of BBB Serving Western Virginia.

Below are BBB’s tips on what to look out for so you don’t fall victim to a puppy scam.

  • Don’t buy a pet without seeing it in person. If that isn’t possible, conduct an internet search of the picture of the pet you are considering. If the same image appears on multiple websites, it’s likely is a fraud. You also can search for text from ads or testimonials to see if the seller copied it from another website.
  • Don't send money by Western Union, MoneyGram, prepaid gift ward, or a cash app like Zelle. These payment methods offer no recourse and no way to get your money back if you are the victim of a scam. Fraudsters may claim to accept credit cards but may steal your credit card information to use it in other scams or inform you that payment didn't go through and request the payment via wire service or gift cards.
  • Research prices for the breed you are interested in adopting. If a purebred dog is advertised for free or at a deeply discounted price, but another payment is required for services like vaccination or shipping, it could be a fraudulent offer.
  • Consider reaching out to a local animal shelter. During this time of quarantine, many shelters are looking for fosters to help relieve the animal's stress and reduce overcrowding at their facilities. Humane Society of the United States refers consumers to local shelters.
  • If you think you have been scammed, report it to BBB Scam Tracker and the Federal Trade Commission. You can also report it to petscams.com, which catalogs puppy scammers, tracks complaints, and endeavors to get fraudulent pet sales websites taken down.

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