Are you thinking of buying a puppy to keep yourself company as much of Canada and the United States enter a second phase of lockdowns and COVID-19 restrictions?
Make sure the pup you’re getting is real, the Better Business Bureau warns, as fraudsters are projected to scam more than $3 million from would-be pet buyers in Canada and across the U.S. this year. While puppies are the most popular, the bureau warns that kittens and cats are also popular targets.
According to the bureau, the amount of money lost to pet scams so far this year is already approaching double what it did in 2019, with more than $2.8 million lost so far, compared to just over $1 million last year.
The number of pet scams has also doubled, with 3,969 reports to the bureau in 2020 so far, compared to 1,870 for all of last year.
According to the bureau, the pandemic heavily contributed to the number of pet scams, with more reported in April than in the first three months of the year. That increase is continuing as people head into the holiday months with 77 more scams reported this November than the same month last year.
“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 Michelle L. Corey, BBB St. Louis president and CEO.
“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.”
The bureau said that mobile payment apps like Zelle and CashApp (both U.S.-only) were frequently used in 2020, while in 2017 Western Union and MoneyGram wire transfers were more popular.
“A Wichita, Kansas, man reported to BBB in April 2020 that he used Zelle to pay $940 for a French bulldog puppy from scammers who used a bogus, but legitimate looking, website to handle shipping for the puppy that never arrived,” the bureau stated.
The pandemic has added an extra layers, with many scammers telling prospective buyers that they cannot meet up or asking for extra cash for special climate-controlled crates, insurance and a (non-existent) COVID-19 vaccine.
To avoid getting scammed, the bureau recommends seeing the pet in person, or using a video call to see the animal before buying, doing a reverse image search and do research about a realistic price for the pet.
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