OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Amid the pandemic and being isolated at home, more people are on the hunt for a canine companion. But watch out when shopping for one online, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns...pet scams are on the rise.
In Canada and the United States, about 77 people said scammers took their money and never delivered in November 2019. In November 2020, the BBB received 337 complaints for the same crime.
“COVID-19 has made for a long and uncertain year, and a ‘quarantine puppy’ or other pet has proven to be a comfort for many people, but it also has created fertile ground for fraudsters,” said Jim Hegarty, president and CEO of the BBB serving Nebraska, South Dakota, The Kansas Plains and South Dakota. “People currently shopping for pets online are prime targets for fraudsters trolling the internet looking for want-to-be pet owners. Knowing the red flags associated with this scam can help consumers avoid heartache and losing their money.”
Using scam posts, scam websites and even paid advertisements for those scam websites, crooks are raking in cash says the BBB. It says the median amount of money lost by victims who fall prey is about $750.
Due to the pandemic and COVID concerns, scammers tell victims that they can't meet before payment is sent. Once payment is received, it's too late.
When buying a pet online, the BBB recommends:
- See the pet in person before paying any money. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, consider a video call with the seller so you can see the seller and the actual pet for sale. Since scammers are not likely to comply with the request, this may help avoid a scam.
- Do a reverse image search of the photo of the pet and search for a distinctive phrase in the description. You can do so with google at: https://images.google.com/
- Do research to get a sense of a fair price for the breed you are considering. Think twice if someone advertises a purebred dog for free or at a deeply discounted price; it could be a fraudulent offer.
- Check out a local animal shelter online for pets you can meet before adopting.
- Push for more law enforcement action against pet scammers.
If current rates keep up, the BBB estimates pet scam losses for 2020 will be more than five times the amount reported in 2017:
- 2017 - 884 reports - $448,123 lost
- 2018 - 1,578 reports - $718,248 lost
- 2019 - 1,870 reports - $1,016,380 lost
- 2020 (Jan. 1 - Nov. 30) - 3969 reports - $2,843,552 lost
- 2020 (projected) - 4,300 reports - $3,100,000 lost
You can read the BBB's full release below or read it here.