Puppy scams increase during COVID-19

Texans have been spending much more time at home in 2020, as they aim to keep themselves and others safe. This increased time at home has presented many with the opportunity to bring pets home and help their furry friends acclimate to their new surroundings. Unfortunately, this opportunity for consumers also brings opportunities for scammers. 

Consumers, usually the searching for a puppy, often look online to find specific breeds. Online shopping allows scammers to create websites with photos stolen from legitimate breeders and lure in potential victims. The scammers come up with reasons why you can’t see the puppy in person and promise to ship the dog to you, often from another state. After you pay for the puppy, the scammer will ask for extra fees due to shipping issues or for a crate. Then, the scammer disappears with your money, and the puppy never arrives.

COVID-19 has given scammers a new edge for tricking consumers into paying more money. They’re citing “new COVID-19 regulations” to charge for specialty crates, sanitization or life insurance. In March and April of 2019, 12 puppy scams were reported to BBB serving the Heart of Texas. In those same months in 2020, 38 were reported, more than triple from the previous year. Total dollars lost to these scams also increased, with consumers losing $27,250 in March and April 2020.

Using this extended time to bring home a pet can be beneficial to you, your family and the pet itself. If you decide now is the right time to bring a new family member home, use these tips from your Better Business Bureau to avoid puppy scams:

Visit the pet before purchasing. Some visits may be possible with proper precautions, such as wearing face masks and maintaining an appropriate distance. If that is not an option, ask to see the puppy over video chat. You can also reverse image search pictures used in ads to see if that photo is used on multiple sites.

Avoid wiring money. Scammers will often ask for payment via wire transfer or gift cards. These payment methods are untraceable, and consumers are unable to get their money back if something goes wrong. Use a credit card when making purchases in case a dispute needs to be made.

Research the breed. Look around to see what prices your chosen breed sells for. If you find a breeder selling dogs for much lower prices, they could be luring consumers into a scam.

Consider local animal shelters. In an effort to prevent overcrowding and relieve stress on the animals, many shelters are looking for volunteers to foster or adopt pets. If you decide to add a new furry family member, check your local shelter first. The Humane Society of the United States can direct you to local shelters.

Visit BBB.org and humanesociety.org to learn more on puppy scams and shelters near you.

Emily Gaines is the public relations coordinator for the Better Business Bureau for the Heart of Texas.