Thinking about getting a puppy or other pet for the family? Make sure to do your research, the number of scams related to efforts to purchase a pet are on the rise.
With a growing number of families considering adopting a pet and turning to the Internet for purchases, the Better Business Bureau is warning that the number of reported pet scams has skyrocketed over the past few months, with nearly three times as many reported scams in June and July as there were over the same period in previous years.
“The pandemic has given scammers the idea to ask for money up front, or to make excuses as to why buyers can’t see the pet in-person, before heartbroken would-be pet owners figure out they have been conned,” said Paula Fleming, chief marketing and sales officer for the BBB in Boston. “This practice has also lead to a jump in online shopping fraud in general. BBB suggests, be aware of these pet scams and avoid falling for phony websites.
According to the BBB, which provides an online tracker to determine the location, dates and nature of different scams across the U.S., pet scams resulted in thousands of dollars in losses in July. In New England, Massachusetts victims lost an estimated $8,000, maine residents reported almost $4,000 in losses, and victims lost just shy of $1,000 in both Rhode Island and Vermont.
The BBB has received a total of 1,681 reports of pet scams through June and July, up from a previous high over the same period of 583 in 2019.
The organization also notes that in the past few months, the number of overall pet scams comprises approximately 25% of reported scams, with the typical financial loss to pet scams rising from $655 last year to $700 this year.
The percentage of people who reported losing money inched up from 68% last year to 70% this year.
According to the BBB, in most cases victims were told that they needed to send money for special climate-controlled crates, insurance and a non-existent COVID-19 vaccine. There also were several instances where the consumers wanted to see or pick-up the animal but were told that wasn’t possible due to COVID-19 restrictions.
One victim from Maine lost nearly $4,000 last month. She explained that she bought the puppy online and then was told that the puppy’s flight was on hold because “a temperature regulated crate is required” and was asked to pay an additional fee, before then being told she needed to purchase insurance.
She never received her pet.
“These increases truly make sense when pet adoptions and pet-related purchases are booming during the pandemic as well. Legitimate online pet supply retailer Chewy, a BBB accredited business, is seeing record revenues,” Fleming said. “Animal shelters across North America are seeing their animals being adopted out and fostered at record rates. Some shelters even have waiting lists, something unheard of not long ago.”
Officials said families considering buying a dog or other pet should never buy without first seeing the animal in person, should avoid wiring or using any cash apps or gift cards to make a purchase, and should always research prices in advance to avoid surprises used by scammers to catch victims off guard.
If you think you have been scammed or have found a suspicious website, report it to BBB Scam Tracker and the Federal Trade Commission. For more information on this and other scams, visit bbb.org.
— Jason Vallee
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