MECHELLE AGBAYANI MILLS, Better Business Bureau
If you are looking to add a pet to your family, be on the lookout for dishonest sellers. As more consumers turn to the internet to find new pets, more scams are popping up online. Experts say a shocking 80 percent of sponsored advertisements about pets may be fake.
The Better Business Bureau’s BBB ScamTracker has 907 reports on this type of fraud, and a Federal Trade Commission report found some 37,000 complaints involving pets. A vast majority of those were believed to be puppy sale scams. When you consider that FTC finds that less than 10 percent of fraud victims actually complain, you can see that the problem is even larger than the numbers indicate.
With the puppy online market growing, it is increasingly important for consumers to make sure they are dealing with businesses or breeders who are ethical in their practices.
The BBB International Investigations Initiative conducted an extensive study of online puppy scams. The study looks at the scope of this problem, who is behind it and the need for law enforcement consumer education to address the issue.
The study also provides some tips for avoiding puppy scams:
- Don’t buy a pet without seeing it in person. Do an internet search of the picture of the pet you are considering. If the same picture appears on multiple websites, you may be dealing with a fraud. You also can search for text from ads or testimonials to see if the seller copied it from another site.
- Never pay a stranger with a money order or through Western Union, Moneygram, Green Dot MoneyPak or unusual methods of payment such as iTunes gift cards.
- Always use a credit card in case you need to dispute the charges.
- Research prices for the breed you are interested in adopting. If someone is advertising a purebred dog for free or at a deeply discounted price, you could be dealing with a fraudulent offer.
- The Humane Society of the United States refers consumers to local shelters. They also have tips for finding a reputable breeder.
- Learn about fraud in your area at BBB Scam Tracker.
If you have been a victim of a puppy scam, please take the following steps:
- File a report with BBB’s Scam Tracker.
- Complain at Petscams.com.
- Complain to the Federal Trade Commission. Call 1-877-FTC-HELP.
- Contact Homeland Security Investigations at the Department of Homeland Security, which also handles international fraud. Call 866-347-2423.
- In Canada, call the Canadian Antifraud Centre at 888-495-8501.
- If you sent money through Western Union, MoneyGram or a Green Dot MoneyPak, contact those companies directly for information about the transactions. They also download their complaints into the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel database, which police around the country can access. The numbers are: Green Dot, 800-795-7597; Western Union, 800-448-1492; MoneyGram, 800-926-9400.