Americans will have lost over $3 million during 2020 because of pet scams, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) estimates.
With the coronavirus pandemic increasing demand for pets, the BBB saw a spike in the number of scams reported. In the U.S. and Canada, there have been nearly 4,000 pet frauds reported in 2020, which is more than double the number of scams that were reported in 2019, the BBB reported.
“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,” BBB St. Louis president and CEO Michelle L. Corey said in a news release. “People currently shopping for pets online are prime targets for fraudsters trolling the internet looking for want-to-be pet owners.” (RELATED: REPORT: Americans Have Lost Nearly $100 Million To Coronavirus Scams)
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning that the number of online puppy scams has risen sharply in 2020 as many people seek to adopt pets during the pandemic. https://t.co/pp5NQ9LMkC pic.twitter.com/WgHIHJuKur
— FOX 47 News (@FOX47News) December 4, 2020
Victims can be of any age, but the BBB report found that the majority of victims are in their 20s or 30s, which is the age group most likely to look for a breeder online. Most people lose between $100 and $1,000, but losses of up to $5,000 have been reported.
Scammers use websites, which are sometimes copies of legitimate websites, to request money in exchange for shipping a non-existent pet. Most of the time, scammers cannot process credit cards and will request payment by gift cards, Western Union or MoneyGram wire transfers, or CashApp or Zelle mobile payment apps.
Once the victim sends money, the scammers will often request more and threaten to charge them with “animal abandonment” if they refuse to pay. Scammers will eventually stop contacting the victim, and the pet will never arrive.
The BBB recommends that anyone looking to buy a pet should meet the pet in person before paying and do a reverse image search to see if pictures show up on any other websites. Buyers should also research the typical price for the pet they are looking to buy – if the pet they are buying is offered for a steeply discounted price, it’s a red flag.