This article is reprinted with permission from NerdWallet. Pandemic lockdowns and working from home led to a boom in people wanting to add a pet to their home. It was good for pets that needed a home, but a heyday for scammers. There are two ways potential pet owners are scammed, says John Goodwin, senior director of the Stop Puppy Mills campaign for the Humane Society of the United States. Either the pet simply doesn’t exist, or it does exist, but its history or health has been misrepresented.
When There Is No Pet Many of us shop for pets online, as we did for almost everything else during the pandemic. That’s a mistake, Goodwin says, and the data backs it up: The Better Business Bureau scam tracker saw complaints of puppy scams in the US and Canada hit 337 in November 2020, more than four times the number. November 2019 figure. to exceed $ 3 million, more than six times the total losses reported in 2017. Although dog and puppy scams are by far the most common, scammers also offer to sell and ship cats and kittens , exotic birds and horses. Fake listings can be on Craigslist, social media, websites, or sponsored links in internet searches. Scammers copy legitimate websites to deceive victims. See also: Some pet owners spend more than $ 2,000 a year on their dogs. Derek Huntington of Capital Pet Movers in Woodbine, Maryland, said he learned of a scam when someone called him to ask when his puppy would be arriving. Your company’s website, including your phone number, had been copied. He says victims are not only asked for the purchase price, but are then asked to pay for a special box for travel and fees for vaccines, shipping or delivery. When victims stop paying or delivery is scheduled, sometimes with false tracking information, communication stops. Payments are generally made with payment apps or prepaid debit cards, which can be difficult or impossible to refund. Although criminals don’t typically accept credit cards, their sites may say yes. When a victim completes the credit card information, the transaction fails and the victim is instructed to pay using a different method. But the scammer now has data that can be used for identity theft. The Humane Society’s advice to avoid online pet scams is simple: Don’t buy a pet online. When the pet is real Even buying in person may not be enough to avoid problems. Chelsea Amengual from New York City has a real puppy, but her French bulldog, Dijon, came with kennel cough, a persistent case of giardia, which is transmissible to humans, and some behavioral problems from living in a cage. or showcase all his life. . Amengual had done his research, even stopping people to pepper them with questions about his French bulldogs. From time to time she went to pet stores, telling herself it was to find out about the breed. She was wowed by a puppy while she slept on his lap, but it cost $ 5,000 and Amengual was reluctant to shop at a store. She walked away. A month later, the puppy was still there, reduced to $ 2,500. Amengual couldn’t bear to leave her there again. Amengual was assured that the puppy came from a reputable breeder and was given a packet of information, including an American Kennel Club registration number that would turn out to be false. Watch: Animal Rescues See Pandemic Rise With the help of the Humane Society, she traced her dog’s origins to a puppy mill in Missouri. The mills are high-volume farming operations that prioritize profit over the welfare of pets. Pets for sale may also have been stolen. Or the puppy a victim “ordered” could be replaced with a different one or it could be sick, warns the American Association for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Avoiding Pet Scams Here’s how Huntington and Goodwin recommend that people look for pets: Adopt from a shelter. “Most of the time, when a dog is brought into a shelter, it is not a behavior problem,” says Goodwin. Get to know the pet and consider an adult. “With an adult dog, it’s easier to see the personality,” says Goodwin. Puppies and kittens are more difficult to judge. If you want a purebred pet, shelters may still be an option: 1 in 4 available pets is purebred, according to the Humane Society. Other tips include: Contact rescue groups for the breed of your choice. They may have a pet for you or may recommend a breeder. Learn about typical prices and avoid deeply discounted or “free” pets, which may suggest fraud or a puppy mill. Visit to the breeder. Ask to meet the mother and see her home. Wait for the breeder to ask you questions. Reputable breeders want to know that the pets they sell will be treated well and that new owners know what to expect. Amengual hopes to add another dog to her home. This time, he plans to rescue. Read Next: 6 Reasons Seniors Should Consider Buying A Pet. More from NerdWallet Bev O’Shea writes for NerdWallet. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @BeverlyOShea.