Adopting a pet during quarantine? Watch out for this puppy scam with a 'COVID-19 twist'

Adopting a pet during quarantine? Watch out for this puppy scam with a 'COVID-19 twist'
Posted at 12:28 PM, Apr 23, 2020

While many people are deciding to adopt pets while they’re at home during this pandemic, it’s important be cautious of who you’re adopting from.

The Better Business Bureau is warning the public about a common puppy scam, but with a “COVID-19 twist.”

Normally, these puppy scams involve fraudsters tricking people into paying for a dog that was advertised online, but the animal doesn’t actually exist or isn’t for sale.

Now, the BBB says these scammers are taking advantage of the current COVID-19 crisis to fool people into paying them more money.

The BBB has been receiving reports of potential pet owners being told they have to pay extra for a crate or insurance to have a pet shipped because of the coronavirus.

In each of these cases, the BBB says victims were also asked to provide an alternate payment, such as a gift card or mobile banking option, that was not part of the original transaction.

“These are red flags that the dealer is not legitimate and they probably don't have the pet they are attempting to sell,” wrote the bureau.

As more consumers turn to the internet to find new pets, more of these puppy scams are popping up. Experts say a shocking 80% of sponsored advertisements about pets may be fake.

The BBB offered these tips on avoiding puppy scams:

• Don’t buy a pet without seeing it in person. If that isn't possible, conduct an internet search of the picture of the pet you are considering. If the same picture appears on multiple websites, it may be a fraud. You also can search for text from ads or testimonials, to see if the seller copied it from another site.
• Avoid wiring money, if possible. Use a credit card, in case you need to dispute the charges.
• Research prices for the breed you are interested in adopting. If someone is advertising a purebred dog for free or at a deeply discounted price, you could be dealing with a fraudulent offer.
• Consider reaching out to your local animal shelter. Especially during this time of quarantine, many shelters are looking for fosters to help relieve the animal's stress and reduce overcrowding at their facilities. The Humane Society of the United States refers consumers to local shelters. They also have tips for finding a reputable breeder.
• Learn about fraud in your area at BBB Scam Tracker.

If you’ve become a victim of a puppy scam, the BBB says to file a report with its Scam Tracker, complain at and complain to the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP. For international fraud, you can contact Homeland Security Investigations.