Some families obeying stay-at-home orders have turned to the Internet to look for a pet—but pandemic puppy scams are real, with more than 500 victims and potential victims recently reporting to Better Business Bureau's Scam Tracker. Many have come across scammers who advertise on websites for animals that don't exist and are never shipped. The COVID-19 pandemic has also given scammers reasons to ask for money or explain why they can’t see the pet in person before heartbroken, would-be pet owners figure out they have been conned. Below, the BBB's best tips for avoiding puppy scams. —Vita Daily
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, its 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. Payment methods like Western Union, MoneyGram and a cash app like Zelle or a gift card offer no recourse and no way to get your money back if you are the victim of a fraud. 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, and then other payment is required for services like vaccination or shipping, it could be a fraudulent offer.
consider reaching out to a local animal shelter. Especially during this time of quarantine, many shelters are looking for fosters to help relieve the animal's stress and reduce overcrowding at their facilities. Contact your local shelters for referrals.
if you think you have been scammed, report it. Contact the BBB Scam Tracker and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. You also can report it to petscams.com, which catalogues puppy scammers, tracks complaints and endeavours to get fraudulent pet sales websites taken down.