BBB Column: Don’t get ‘petfished’ this holiday season | Business | #lovescams | #datingapps


If you are shopping online for a pet this holiday season, use caution. According to the latest update to the BBB Puppy Scam Study, the average dollar amount lost per victim is $850. And as consumers rely on the internet to find new pets, they will be met with a slew of heart-tugging ads.

A BBB study found that many of the ads are scams, and anyone looking online for a pet is extremely likely to encounter one.

Scammers frequently capitalize on the high demand during the holidays by posting pictures of pets in Christmas hats and other gear. When a would-be pet parent pursues the listing, the scammer refuses to let the consumer meet the pet before buying – often claiming COVID-19 considerations. The scammer claims that they must use a pet delivery agency of some kind, often an airline. BBB Scam Tracker has received many reports of fake web pages impersonating real businesses for this purpose. The scammer also may demand fees for vaccinations or other last-minute “needs.” Ultimately, the pet does not exist, and the consumer has lost money and emotional investment.

The tactics used in pet scams continue to evolve. Scammers increasingly ask for payment through untraceable cash apps such as Zelle, Google Pay, Cash App, Venmo and Apple Pay. A review of BBB Scam Tracker data finds that the vast majority of reports listed Zelle as the payment method involving the purchase of online pets.

“Scammers love to take advantage during emotionally charged situations,” said Mechele Agbayani Mills, president of BBB Serving Central East Texas. “And few things pull at a person’s heartstrings more than an adorable puppy, so those searching for pets online should expect to be targeted.”

BBB recommendations for buying pets online:

See the pet in person before paying any money. Consider a video call with the seller if there are concerns about meeting in person because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This way, you are able to see the seller and the actual pet for sale. More often than not, scammers won’t comply with the request and help avoid a scam.

Conduct a reverse image search of the photo of the pet and search for a distinctive phrase in the description.

Research the breed to get a sense of a fair price you are considering. Think twice if someone advertises a purebred dog for free or at a deeply discounted price … it could be a fraudulent offer.

Check out a local animal shelter for pets to meet in person before adopting.

BBB urges more law enforcement action against pet scammers.

The media and public should help to educate those looking for pets online by sharing BBB’s tips and study.

Who to contact if you are the victim of a pet scam:

Petscams.com – petscams.com/report-pet-scam-websites tracks complaints, catalogues puppy scammers and endeavors to get fraudulent pet sales websites taken down.

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – reportfraud.ftc.gov to file a complaint online or call 877-FTC-Help.

Better Business Bureau – BBB Scam Tracker to report a scam online.

Canadian Antifraud Centre – antifraudcentre-centreantifraude or call 1-888-495-8501 for scams involving Canada.

Your credit card issuer – report the incident if you shared your credit card number, even if the transaction was not completed.

For more resources on pet scams, visit the BBB Pet Scams resource page. For more holiday tips, visit the BBB Holiday Tips page. For other tips on how to be a savvy consumer, go to bbb.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, please call BBB at 903-581-5704 or use BBB ScamTracker.

BBB is a nonprofit, business-supported organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Most BBB services to consumers are free of charge. BBB Serving Central East Texas was founded in 1985 and serves 19 counties.

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