BBB warns of puppy scams that target families this holiday season

Published: Dec. 6, 2022 at 12:17 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 6, 2022 at 6:27 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - This holiday season the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning shoppers about the growth in online pet scams.

The BBB Scamtracker reports that pet scams make up about 20% of all online shopping scams. In 2022, the average amount lost is up, averaging about $850 per scam.

“Pet Scam victims often tell us they are more upset about not getting the dog than the money they lost,” said Lisa Frohnapfel, President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau. “Families get connected to the photos they see and the idea that the dog will soon be part of their family. When they finally realize it is a scam, the impact can be emotionally crushing.”

Puppy scammers lure people in with fake websites and photos of cute puppies, then ask for more money for shipping, vaccinations, or special crates. They are good at finding reasons to request additional money stated the BBB. Emotional connection to the pet can cause shoppers to often ignore the red flags.

The BBB shared a story about a man from Kentwood who reported that he lost money when he tried to buy a French Bulldog puppy online. The man tried to limit his risk by negotiating a payment of half the cost upfront and the other half on delivery. He was asked to pay using Zelle but kept having problems getting the payment to go through. After sending $250 he became fed up and asked for a refund, only to have the scammers disappear.

Another person from Traverse City tells a similar story when they tried to purchase a Poodle online. They paid for the dog by wiring money through Western Union to what they thought was a third-party shipping company. The shipping company was fake as well and part of the scam. Once payment was made the scammers stopped communicating.

Many fake puppy websites, often registered outside of the United States, appear, and vanish quickly, hindering law enforcement efforts. Scammers often ask for payments by wire transfer, gift card, or payment app. These methods make it unlikely the victim will be able to get their money back.

Prosecutions in puppy scam cases are difficult to solve, as perpetrators are often outside of the country.

The BBB is offering tips for researching puppy sellers:

  • See pets in person before paying any money.
  • Try to set up a video call to view the animal if you cannot meet in person.
  • Conduct a reverse image search on photos attached to ads.
  • Research the breed to figure out the average market price.
  • Check out a local animal shelter or breeder for pets to meet in person before adopting.

If you are the victim of a puppy scam you can contact the following:

  • Better Business BureauBBB Scam Tracker to report a fraud online.
  • Federal Trade Commission (FTC)reportfraud.ftc.gov to file a complaint online or call 877-FTC-Help.
  • Your credit card issuer – report the incident if you shared your credit card number, even if the transaction was not completed.
  • Petscams.com - petscams.com/report-pet-scam-websites tracks complaints, catalogs puppy scammers and endeavors to get fraudulent pet sales websites taken down.

Monitor your statements and if you suspect fraud, ask for a refund.

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