December 4, 2020

Better Business Bureau Warns Puppy Scams on the Rise – NBC Chicago

By haziqbinarif


The Better Business Bureau is warning dog lovers in search of a pandemic buddy about a sharp rise in online puppy sale scams this year.

The demand for pets has dramatically increased in recent months as people stay home to help curb the spread of COVID-19, according to the BBB. A spike in scams has coincided with this demand, as swindlers capitalize on the situation.

Through Sept. 30, nearly 4,000 pet scams were reported in the U.S. and Canada, more than twice the amount of reports in all of 2019, according to data from the BBB. In November alone, 337 complaints were reported to the BBB, a dramatic increase from 77 reported the same month last year.

Jacque Klika, of Shorewood, filed one of those complaints. She hoped to bring home a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

“I had shopped around and saw they were $2,000-4,000. I found this one site, and they were $850. So, it seemed like a pretty good deal,” said Klika.

According to the BBB, scammers are taking advantage of the COVID-19 crisis by telling shoppers that they cannot meet the animals before sending money, and are using mobile payment apps like Zelle and CashApp to collect funds.

That’s what happened to Klika. The man she thought was a Cavalier breeder wouldn’t talk to her on the phone, only by email. He also wouldn’t tell her where the puppies were coming from.

“I’m an educated woman. I was very surprised I didn’t see through it. I had never heard of puppy scams,” said Klika.

Klika didn’t send any money because she couldn’t figure out how to use the app. Jeff Mason wasn’t as lucky.

“I went from kind of embarrassed and hurt to angry,” said Mason, of Seneca.

Mason thought he found the perfect Piebald Dapple Miniature Dachshund for his family.

“Blue eyes. [The photo] melts your heart when you see it. They use the perfect one. That dog is so cute,” said Mason.

Mason and his family are now out $700. He realized it was a scam when the alleged breeder wanted more money for shipping. Mason said no, and the breeder “went dark.”

At the current pace, pet scams reported to BBB will be nearly five times as many as in 2017. The projected dollar loss from these scams is expected to top $3 million, more than six times the total losses reported in 2017. 

“All of a sudden, no one would answer a phone. I emailed and text, nothing. Nobody would reply. I went to the internet again and the website was gone,” said Mason.

At the current pace, pet scams reported to BBB will be nearly five times as many as in 2017. The projected dollar loss from these scams is expected to top $3 million, more than six times the total losses reported in 2017. 

“Unfortunately in situations like this, it’s like opening the window and throwing your money out. Getting your money back is very, very hard to do,” said Steve Bernas, the President and CEO of the BBB serving Northern Illinois.

Bernas said never wire money and don’t pay in cash or with gift cards. He said credit cards are the best form of protection. He suggests potential pet parents use video chat to see the dogs before sending any money, as well as being wary of provided photos.

“Do a reverse google search of it, and see how many other websites that dog appears on,” said Bernas.

Klika did eventually add to her family. She and her husband adopted an 8-year-old Welsh Corgi named Zoey. Mason hopes to get a new dog soon but is waiting for the right opportunity.

Track and search scams through the BBB here.





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