Puppy scams take COVID twist

It’s no secret: Scammers can and will find ways to take advantage of a difficult situation. The current international crisis is no exception, as puppy scams have taken on a COVID-19 twist. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is receiving Scam Tracker reports of potential pet owners being told they have to pay extra for a crate or insurance to have a pet shipped because of the coronavirus. In each of the cases reported, victims were also asked to provide an alternate payment, such as a gift card, or mobile banking option that was not part of the original transaction. These are red flags that the dealer is not legitimate and they probably don’t have the pet they are attempting to sell.

BBB previously conducted a study reviewing the scope of this problem, who is behind it, and the need for law enforcement consumer education to address the issue.

How to avoid puppy scams:
• 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 picture appears on multiple websites, it may be a fraud. You also can search for text from ads or testimonials, to see if the seller copied it from another site.
• Avoid wiring money, if possible. Use a credit card; it’s easier to dispute a charge.
• Research prices for the breed you are interested in. If someone is advertising a purebred dog for free or at a deeply discounted price, you could be dealing with a fraudulent offer.
• Consider reaching out to your local animal shelter. Especially during this time of quarantine, many shelters are looking for fosters to help relieve the animals’ stress and reduce overcrowding at their facilities. The Humane Society of the United States refers consumers to local shelters. They also have tips for finding a reputable breeder.
Learn about fraud in your area at BBB Scam Tracker.

What if you have been a victim of a puppy scam?
• File a report with BBB’s Scam Tracker
• Complain at Petscams.com
• Complain to the Federal Trade Commission. Call 877-FTC-HELP.
• Homeland Security Investigations at the Department of Homeland Security also handles international fraud. Call 866-DHS-2-ICE (866-347-2423) (from U.S. and Canada).

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