BBB: Beware of Puppy Scams This Holiday Season | Business

If you are shopping online for a pet this holiday season, be careful. According to the BBB’s latest Risk Report, complaints continue to escalate in Better Business Bureau tracking scams as fake pet and puppy scams are on the rise. Con artists know that few things touch a person’s heart like a lovable puppy. And as consumers rely on the internet to find new pets, they will be faced with a plethora of heartbreaking advertisements. A BBB study found that many advertisements are scams and anyone looking online for a pet is extremely likely to come across one.

The FTC estimates that only about 10% of victims report these crimes – so the problem is likely more widespread. When the pandemic hit in 2020, the number of pet scam reports skyrocketed.

Shortly after cities and states began imposing tighter restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19, BBB Scam Tracker saw an increase in reports of pet fraud, with nearly 4,000 reports received in 2020 from the United States and Canada. BBB Scam Tracker data shows more reports of fraudulent pet websites in April than in the first three months of the year combined. The COVID-19 bump continued into the 2020 holiday season, with consumers reporting 337 complaints to BBB about puppy scams in November 2020, a dramatic increase from 77 for the same month in 2019.

The median loss from pet scams reported to Scam Tracker in 2020 is $ 750. People aged 35 to 55 accounted for half of BBB reports in 2020.

Estimated pet scam complaints and scams, by year:

A photo of an adorable puppy on a website or online ad appears when searched. The description is endearing and seems to come from a breeder or animal seller. In other situations, advertisements or descriptions of social media posts come across as a distraught pet owner who must find a new home for a beloved dog. Once a request is made on the animal, a quick response is sent to wire money or an urgent request is made to purchase prepaid gift cards, or send money through a payment app in line, to get the puppy previewed online.

The “seller” then promises that the animal will be shipped immediately. What comes next is a series of unexpected problems. Scammers use various excuses, all of which need to be paid for in advance. With each new problem or scenario, the crooks promise to reimburse the unexpected costs as soon as the animal is delivered. However, the animal is never delivered and neither is the refund as all transactions are made through transactions that cannot be found.

“Scammers love to take advantage of emotionally charged situations,” said Mechele Agbayani Mills, president of BBB Serving Central East Texas. “The excitement of buying a new pet can cloud good judgment, so that victims can be both financially and emotionally hurt when they realize they’ve lost their money as well as hope. of a new pet. “

Tips to protect yourself from pet-related scams:

  • Visit and inspect the animal yourself by arranging to meet with the potential seller in person. Most legitimate breeders welcome the visit.
  • Never send money by wire transfer to people or businesses you don’t know and trust. Once the money is wired, it’s gone for good. The same goes for prepaid debit cards or gift cards. Always use a credit card in case you need to dispute the charges. If someone asks you to pay for anything with a gift card, you may be dealing with fraud. also warned people to pay with Zelle, a digital payment system.
  • Search the Internet for the photo of the animal you are considering. If the same image appears on more than one website, it may be a scam site. Consider searching for text from ads or testimonials to see if the seller copied it from another site or if they are hosting multiple sites.

Research the prices of the breed you want to adopt or buy. If someone is advertising a purebred dog for free or at a very discounted price, that is probably not true. If the content on the page states that they register dogs with a specific organization or registry, confirm this by contacting the registry or organization directly.

Check out the website. Go to and find out if there is a list of the company or breeder listed on the website.

Find out what other consumers are saying. Check BBB Scam Tracker and search the internet for the name of the breeder or organization.

Consider visiting the local animal shelter. Many shelters are looking for foster families to help relieve stress on animals and reduce overcrowding at their facilities.

For more vacation tips, visit the BBB Holiday Tips page. For more tips on how to be an informed consumer, visit To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, please call BBB at 903-581-5704 or use BBB ScamTracker.

About BBB: BBB is a non-profit, business-backed organization that sets and maintains high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Most BBB consumer services are free. BBB provides objective advice, free BBB company profiles on more than 5.3 million companies, 11,000 charity reviews, dispute resolution services, alerts and educational information on matters affecting market confidence. Visit for more information. BBB Serving Central East Texas was founded in 1985 and serves 19 counties.

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