Hey guys, how are you hanging in there with those stay at home, otherwise known as SIP or shelter in place orders? I’ve got 2 small dogs myself and well, they make spending time at home a whole lot more interesting. It should come as no surprise that plenty of single people and families alike have now begun to look for a pet on the internet. After all, think about all that extra time you can now invest into house training and spending time with that new puppy or kitten. Hey, it’s a great way to ease the isolation. But, as you may have guessed – those scammers are quick. As we speak, many are advertising pets for sale on websites all across the internet. Many of those animals don’t exist or ever get delivered. And these scammers are bold! They’re using the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse to ask for funds up front, demanding victims send money for special climate-controlled crates, insurance and even a non-existent Covid-19 vaccine. Want to see or pick up your new furry friend? They won’t let you, citing Covid-19 restrictions. The result is that heartbroken, would-be pet owners get conned and scammers, if you’re watching (or reading) this, you are making children cry. I hope you’re happy.
Now puppy scams are nothing new. In fact, puppy scams similar to these were the subject of a 2017 in-depth investigative study by the Better Business Bureau, and it should come as no surprise that scams like these are prolific around the holidays. New data from the BBB Scam Tracker shows that these scams have spiked since Covid-19 took hold in the U.S., with more reports about fraudulent pet websites in April than in the first three months of the year combined.
Now the number of pet frauds are probably much higher. After all, falling victim to a scam can be embarrassing and many victims either choose not to file a complaint or do not know where to turn for help. According to the BBB, for these types of schemes to be successful they depend on bogus, often sophisticated advertisements to hook unsuspecting consumers. In fact experts believe that at least 80% of the sponsored advertising links that appear in an internet search for pets are fake. Wow.
Plenty of smart people have fallen for puppy scams over the years. These scammers are so good, they’ll make you feel stupid. So, here are 4 tips that could keep you from becoming the next victim of these critter con artists.
Don’t buy a pet without seeing it in person No, doing a Facetime, Zoom or Facebook Messenger video call doesn’t count. If the seller gets nervous when you start asking to see the pet, that should be a big red flag. Do a quick internet search of the picture of the pet you are considering. If the same picture appears on multiple websites, its likely fraud. You also can search the text from ads or testimonials in the listing. The seller could have copied it from another website.
Avoid wiring money, or using a cash app or gift card Scammers will ask you to send money in this way for a reason. You have no way to get your money. So, use your head – any method of payment that is untraceable or non-refundable should be avoided. Fraudsters may claim to accept credit cards, but if you give it to them, they may just steal the card number to use for another scam or just lie and tell you that your card was declined and request payment by wire transfer or gift cards. Don’t fall for it.
Research prices for the breed you are interested in adopting Look out for bait and switch scams. A pure-bred dog could be advertised for free or at a discounted price, but if you have to pay for vaccination or shipping, it could be fraud. I’m sure you don’t me to remind you, if the price is too good to be true, it’s usually a scam.
Consider reaching out to a local animal shelter Guys, both of my dogs are from the local shelter and they are no less deranged than any pure-bred canine. Shelters are always looking for families. It’s the right thing to do and you’ll be saving a life in the process. Consider the Hawaii humane society, Paws of Hawaii or Oahu SPCA. They usually have their pets listed on their website and Facebook or you can just call and let them know what you’re looking for. Fair warning – puppies go fast.
If you think you have been scammed, report it to the BBB Scam Tracker and the Federal Trade Commission (links below). They can’t do anything about it if you don’t report it. You also can report it to petscams.com, which catalogs puppy scammers, tracks complaints and gets fraudulent pet websites taken down.
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I hope that helps protect you and your family from becoming a victim of puppy fraud.
As always, stay safe out there.