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Better Business Bureau: Puppy Scams Fall, but Individual Losses Rise

Dec 26, 2022 | News, Retail

christmas puppy

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While pet scams in North America appear to be on the decline in 2022, consumer losses are expected to exceed $2 million, according to a study update by the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

Wolf in Puppy’s Clothing

Puppy scams remain consistently profitable for scammers because their multi-tiered setup allows them to convincingly go back to a consumer several times to ask for money. Total losses in 2022 are down by one-third compared to the peak of more than $3 million during the pandemic in 2020/2021, according to BBB Scam Tracker.

However, individual monetary losses in puppy scams are climbing, with an average loss of $850 in 2022, up 60 percent since 2017, when BBB began tracking fake online pet sellers.

Pet scams historically make up 25 percent of all online shopping frauds reported to BBB and are tracking to be down slightly for 2022 at 18 percent.

Puppy scammers lure people with fake websites and promises of cute puppies, then ask for more money for shipping or special crates. Consumers say it is easy to be swept up in the emotions of the moment when buying a pet and push forward despite reservations.

According to BBB Scam Tracker, instead of receiving a 9-week-old golden retriever puppy, one victim lost a total of $350 on a false puppy advertisement posted on Craigslist. The initial cost for the puppy was listed as $175. The seller told the woman he had multiple buyers, but he would hold the puppy for a refundable deposit of $50. The victim sent the payment using Venmo and received another invoice requesting an additional $125. The seller gave the victim his phone number, residential address, and a time to pick up the dog. Ninety minutes before picking up the pet, the woman called to find out the phone number wasn’t in service and the address was fake. She was out the money and sadly didn’t have the puppy she was expecting.

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According to 2022 BBB Scam Tracker reports, three breeds are the most common lures, making up nearly one-third of all scams: Yorkshire Terriers, Dachshunds, and French Bulldogs. However, the BBB warns that buyers should be cautious when shopping for any breed online.

BBB recommends researching sellers when shopping for pets online:

  • See pets in person before paying any money.
  • Try to set up a video call to view the animal.
  • Conduct a reverse image search on photos attached to ads.
  • Research the breed to figure out the average market price.
  • Check out a local animal shelter for pets to meet in person before adopting.

Victims of puppy scams can take action after the fact:

  • Contact your credit card issuer and report the incident if you shared your credit card number, even if the transaction was not completed. Monitor statements and ask for a refund.
  • File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at reportfraud.ftc.gov or call 877-FTC-Help. 
  • Report the incident to Petscams.com at petscams.com/report-pet-scam-websites, which tracks complaints, catalogs puppy scammers, and endeavors to get fraudulent websites taken down.

And update the Better Business Bureau’s BBB Scam Tracker to report a fraud online.

Alaska Business June 2024 cover
In This Issue
Delivering Anchorage's Promise
June 2024
Welcome to the June 2024 issue, which features our annual Transportation Special Section. We've paired it this year with a focus on the Pacific Northwest and Hawai'i, as Alaska has close ties to both that reach far beyond lines of transportation. Even further out past our Pacific Ocean compatriots and our Canadian neighbors to the east, Alaska's reach extends to India and Singapore. Enjoy this issue that explores many of Alaska's far-flung business dealings.
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