AUSTIN, Texas - Beware of a new scam targeting those who are looking to bring home a new furry friend during the COVID-19 outbreak.
According to a report processed by the BBB serving the Heart of Texas, puppy scams are on the rise. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) says that in March and April, reports in 2019 rose from 12 incidents to 28 in 2020, an increase of 191%. BBB also says that the total amount of money lost increased by 163% with $9,152 dollars reported lost from March to April 2019 and $27,250 dollars reported lost in 2020.
The puppy scam itself involves a customer purchasing a dog, or other pet, from an online scammer that claims they will ship the animal to them. According to the bureau, after the consumer pays for the pet, the scammer may ask for more funds to take care of shipping issues or other complications. Once the money is exchanged, the scammer and the victim's money vanish.
“We thought this was going to be our first purchase as a married couple when in return all we did is lose $500 for a puppy that doesn’t even exist. They wanted $770 for a crate because of COVID-19, and I realized I had been scammed. They started texting my husband saying I told them he would pay for the crate,” said one married couple who fell victim to the scam.
The BBB states that the victims later realize that the animal they were looking to purchase never actually existed and that the photos used on the scammer's website are usually taken from other legitimate online breeders.
The bureau also found instances where scammers are citing "new COVID-19 regulations" in order to charge victims more for specialty crates and as an excuse to avoid the victim from seeing the animal before purchase.
The BBB says there are some tips one should follow when looking to purchase an animal online, as to not get scammed.
BBB online pet buying tips:
- Visit the pet before purchasing. Some visits may be possible with proper precautions, such as wearing face masks and maintaining an appropriate distance. If that is not an option, ask to see the puppy over video chat. You can also reverse image search pictures used in ads to see if that photo is used on multiple sites.
- Avoid wiring money. Scammers will often ask for payment via wire transfer or gift cards. These payment methods are untraceable, and consumers are unable to get their money back if something goes wrong. Use a credit card when making purchases in case a dispute needs to be made.
- Research the breed. Look around to see what prices your chosen breed sells for. If you find a breeder selling dogs for much lower prices, they could be luring consumers into a scam.
- Consider local animal shelters. In an effort to prevent overcrowding and relieve stress on the animals, many shelters are looking for volunteers to foster or adopt pets. If you decide to add a new furry family member, check your local shelter first. The Humane Society of the United States can direct you to local shelters.
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