GREEN BAY, Wis. — Many people are shopping for gifts this holiday season, and for some this may include online shopping for a pet to welcome to the family. But the Better Business Bureau is warning people of an increase in complaints and reports related to fake pet and puppy scams.
Pets involved in these scams are kittens, birds and reptiles, but most notably include fake puppy sales, which account for 60% of reports.
These reports include those who never received an animal, people who got animals with health or genetic problems and some not receiving proper documentation for their pet.
The BBB says between January and November of this year, there has been a reported 5,879 pet fraud claims, which is projected to reach more than 6,400 by the end of 2019. They note this is an increase of 39% since 2017.
These numbers may seem high, but the Federal Trade Commission estimates only about 10% of victims report these pet selling scams.
The scam works by advertising an adorable pet on a website or through an online ad. The scammers will claim to be breeders or pretend to be a distraught pet owner who must find a home for their beloved pet.
Once you ask about purchasing the pet, they will ask you to wire money then say they will ship the pet right away. But, as always, unexpected "problems" arise. These range from the airline needing a specific pet crate to costly pet insurance, which must be paid by you in advance.
“Scammers love to try to take advantage of people when they are in high emotion situations,” says Jim Temmer, president and CEO of BBB Serving Wisconsin. “The excitement of buying a new pet can cloud good judgment, and victims can be hurt financially and emotionally when they realize they have lost their money along with hopes for a new pet.”
The BBB gives several tips on protecting yourself from these pet scams. If possible, meet with the seller in person so you can inspect the pet yourself. The BBB says most legitimate breeders will welcome the visit. If you're unsure about the site, you can go to PetScams.com for a list of fake selling sites.
They also encourage people to do an internet search with the picture of the pet you're considering buying. If the same photo is on multiple websites, you might be dealing with a fraud. You can also search the text from the ad or testimonials to see if the seller copied it from another site.
If you have been a victim or see a puppy or pet scam, the BBB asks to report it to their Scam Tracker.