National Puppy Day is on Mar. 23 and consumers can expect a nearly constant stream of cute puppy pictures across most social media platforms celebrating everyone’s furry best friends. After seeing these pictures, some consumers may decide that the time is right for a (or another) dog of their own and will begin the process of searching for and purchasing a canine companion. However, exercising caution when shopping online for the perfect pet is important. The pandemic resulted in a rise in the number of people who were tricked into falling for a fraudulent pet purchase.
Pet scams continue to take a heavy toll on consumers across the nation. According to BBB’s 2021 Scam Tracker Risk Report, pets were the most common type of purchase used to perpetrate online purchase scams, and current data shows little indication 2022 will be much different.
Even though puppies are the most common type of animal used in a pet scam, BBB also receives reports of fraudulent sellers advertising the sale of kittens, reptiles and birds that are never received. In most cases, consumers do not recognize they are interacting with a scammer until they start arranging for the transportation of the animal after purchase.
In February, one consumer submitted a report to BBB Scam Tracker that they lost $1,000 when attempting to buy a miniature Schnauzer online. After paying an initial $400 to the seller, they referred the buyer to a shipping company to deliver the pet.
“[The shipping company] said I needed to send an additional $600 for issuing a sedative and reserving a special crate,” the consumer reported. “After that, [they said] I needed to pay an additional $800 for insurance. Fortunately, I had maxed out my Zelle limit.”
The consumer realized it was a scam once the shipping company stated they accepted gift cards as a form of payment after Zelle was no longer an option.
“I’m now out $1,000, and there’s nothing I can do about it because it was debit,” the report concluded.
Even though it is hard to resist an adorable face and a decent deal, there are a few ways to avoid being put in the doghouse:
- Visit the seller – responsible breeders and reputable rescues are more than happy to offer you a tour and let you see the available puppies in person.
- Check references – read online reviews and talk to other people who have purchased pets from the place you are considering making sure the seller is trustworthy.
- Look for website warning signs – fake puppy sale sites look legitimate because they steal content from other websites. An easy way to spot a duplicate site: copy a line of text from the website and paste it into a search engine.
- Select on site – rather than relying on pictures to pick your perfect pet and waiting for a breeder to send them to you, visit the site and make your choice in person.
- Use a credit card – this offers additional protection if you do make an online purchase. Asking a customer to pay by wire transfer or prepaid card is illegal, and any breeder that pressures you to do so is most likely a scam.
Picking the perfect pet for your family is exciting, so celebrate National Puppy Day the right way – without scammers. Consider adopting a pet from a rescue shelter, being careful to avoid scams.
In addition to the risks associated with purchasing a puppy online, many charitable givers may consider donating to causes that support dogs this National Puppy Day. While BBB encourages charitable giving, it is vital to remain aware of scammers who create fraudulent charities and crowdfunding initiatives disguised as a worthy cause.
It is always a good practice to spend the time to research a charity or foundation, through a site like Give.org, before committing any funds to their stated cause or mission. It takes some investigatory work on the part of the donor to make sure their money is going to a worthy organization.
If considering a donation to a crowdfunding initiative, BBB recommends donating only to those you personally know or can independently verify as legitimate.
If you think you have been scammed or have found a suspicious website, report it to:
- BBB Scam Tracker – report scams and search our database for possible scams.
- Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
- In Canada, contact the Canadian Antifraud Centre
- Petscams.com – tracks complaints, catalogs puppy scammers and endeavors to get fraudulent pet sales websites taken down.
See the BBB’s resource page on pet scams.
Always do business with organizations that meet BBB Accreditation Standards and BBB Standards for Trust. Learn how to become a BBB Accredited Business.