Agency Warns Of “Skyrocketing” Number Of Online Pet Scams Targeting Holiday Shoppers

We never advocate buying a puppy or dog (unless someone needs a specially-trained service pet), but here’s one more reason to adopt, not shop.

According to the Better Business Bureau, the agency has detected an alarming spike in online pet scams, which are “skyrocketing” during the pandemic. This disturbing trend led the agency to issue an urgent press release warning people to exercise extreme caution if shopping for pets online.

“People currently shopping for pets online are very likely to encounter a scam listing in an online ad or website,” the BBB wrote in a statement. “Knowing the red flags associated with this scam can help people avoid heartache and loss of money.”

Photo: Pixabay

Internet pet scams–which leave owners paying hundreds or thousands of dollars for pets who will never materialize–are especially pervasive around the holidays, when families consider adding a four-legged member. And while an overwhelming number of cases (82%) involved dogs, online shoppers were also duped trying to buy cats, birds, and iguanas.

Unlike animals adopted through shelters, internet scam artists don’t let buyers actually meet the animals before sending money, usually under the guise of covid safety requirements. But they’ll send plenty of photos–right before requesting money for vaccines, supplies, and hefty shipping/delivery expenses for an adorable pet who may not even exist.

Photo: Unsplash/Mia Anderson

One St. Louis woman paid a $500 deposit to a so-called breeder after falling in love with a cute cavapoo puppy online. After sending the woman several photos of the dog, the pup’s so-called breeder requested the balance on Zelle, which she happily paid.

But though the bank marked this transaction as fraudulent, Zelle (like Google Pay, Cash App, Venmo, Apple Pay, and other cash apps) is also untraceable, hence its popularity among fraudsters. Needless to say, that adorable cavapoo puppy never turned up.

Photo: Unsplash/Cristina Anne Costello

In California, another frustrated buyer lost $1,350 after she and her husband tried to purchase a samoyed puppy online. The woman thought she was safe because she’d signed an emailed contract with the “breeder” before transferring money, once again over Zelle. She suspected a scam when fraudsters requested more money for a temperature-controlled crated, but by that point, it was too late.

According to the BBB Scam Tracker, most people lose about $1,088 in online puppy scams, but this number is only an average. It also doesn’t account for the emotional toll of preparing to welcome a new family member who will never arrive.

Photo: Pixabay

Of course, the solution to this problem is fairly simple–adopt, don’t shop! Skip the scams and head down to your local shelter, which will be crowded with adoptable dogs and cats eager to find their own homes.

Not only is adopting a shelter pet a much safer (and cheaper) alternative to buying pets online, adoption saves lives and gives shelter pets their own family. Isn’t that what the holidays are all about?

Read the BBB’s full statement.

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