Beware of Online ‘Puppy Scams’ As the Holidays Approach


it’s that time of year when a lucky puppy or kitten will find a happy home. It’s Christmas, and it will be to the delight of their new family – maybe.

Some scams are persistent. One of them is the “puppy scam”.

That’s why every year around this time we update the BBB Pet Scam Study. Surprising information this year. The largest group of victims is the 25-44 age group with an average loss of $ 1,088.

These people were on the losing end of an online purchase. The updated study points out that buying a pet on the Internet is extremely risky. A popular online pet scam occurs when an online search ends with a potential pet owner paying hundreds of dollars or more to adopt a pet that ultimately doesn’t exist.

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These scams can cost victims money and punishment, as they are especially prevalent during the holiday season when families may be looking to add a furry family member as a gift.

People who currently buy pets online are very likely to come across a fraudulent ad in an online ad or on a website. Knowing the red flags associated with this scam can help consumers avoid disappointment and waste their money.

BBB Scam Tracker online shopping scam reports have exploded during the COVID-19 pandemic, and pet scams account for 35% of those reports in 2021.

Although reports on pet scams are slightly down from 2020, they are expected to be double those of 2019 this year and more than four times more than in 2017, when BBB published its first study. investigation of online scams with puppies.

Scammers often take advantage of the high demand during the holidays by posting pictures of pets wearing Christmas hats and other gear. One thing to keep in mind, when a potential pet parent sues listing, the scammer refuses to let the consumer meet the pet before purchasing – often claiming it’s because of COVID-19 considerations.

The scammer claims he must use a pet delivery agency, often an airline. BBB Scam Tracker has received numerous reports of bogus web pages masquerading as real companies for this purpose.

The scammer may also charge a fee for vaccinations or other last minute “needs”. In the end, the animal does not exist, and the consumer has lost money and emotional investment.

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While 82% of scam reports involving pets involved dogs, others reported cats, birds and even iguanas.

Much like in other online frauds, crooks increasingly demand payment through untraceable cash apps like Zelle, Google Pay, Cash App, Venmo, and Apple Pay.

A review of Scam Tracker data revealed that the vast majority of reports mentioned Zelle as a payment method involving the purchase of pets online. It’s actually a global problem, but due to the high demand, the United States imports 1 million dogs every year.

However, the number of available dogs is declining as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has suspended imports of dogs into the United States from 100 countries deemed to be at high risk for rabies.

Fewer dogs translates into a window of opportunity for crooks. So you don’t have a disappointing Christmas, do these things:

  • See the animal in person before paying any money. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, consider a video call with the seller so you can see the seller and the animal for sale. Since the crooks are unlikely to comply with the request, this can help prevent a scam.
  • Reverse image search of the animal’s photo and look for a distinctive phrase in the description.
  • Do some research to get an idea of ​​the right price for the breed you are considering. Think twice if someone is advertising a purebred dog for free or at a very discounted price… it could be a fraudulent offer.
  • Check out one of the local animal shelters online for any pets you may come across before adopting.

Torch Prize

A reminder that you still have time to nominate a company for the 2021 BBB Torch Awards for Market Ethics.

This is an award given to companies that exemplify best ethical business practices. They treat their customers, employees, suppliers and competitors the right way.

Have a business you enjoy – show them.

If you are a business and think you deserve it, you can nominate yourself. Go to and click on the Torch Awards link.

Dennis Horton is the director of the Rockford regional office of the Better Business Bureau.


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