Who can resist the precious playfulness and cute factor of puppies? They just scream..."Love Me...Love Me."  I for one am a sucker for a pooch, I would have a house full if my situation allowed, but I'll save that dream fro another day.

Three sleeping puppies

With more people staying home during the pandemic, families have turned to the internet to look for a pet, thinking they would have plenty of time to help the pet adjust to its new surroundings. Because of this puppy sales and adoptions have been soaring. And along with anything that is a hot item, scammers aren't far behind to cash in from those with "puppy love" in their eyes.

According to the Better Business Bureau "Many have come across scammers who advertise on websites for animals that don't exist and are never shipped. The scammers ask for money up front, and make excuses as to why buyers can’t see the pet in person and then.... heartbroken, would-be pet owners figure out they have been conned."

It can happen so easily. The ads can sneak in anywhere, FaceBook, National puppy selling sites, I've even seen ads in good ole Uncle Henrys that have certainly seemed suspect. And now with COVID-19, the scammers are finding ways to pad their pockets even more. The Better Business Bureau says "Victims are often told that they need to send money for special climate-controlled crates, insurance and a (non-existent) COVID-19 vaccine. There also were several instances where the consumers wanted to see or pick-up the animal but were told that wasn't possible due to COVID-19 restrictions."

Because these unscrupulous sellers play on your emotions and vulnerability these scams can effect almost anyone. One woman told the Better Business Bureau “I'm a highly educated person, but I've never felt so stupid in my entire life"

Here's some tips the BBB recommends you keep in mind to avoid a puppy scam:

  • 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, its likely is a fraud. You also can search for text from ads or testimonials, to see if the seller copied it from another website.
  • Avoid wiring money, or using a cash app or gift card. These payment methods offer no recourse and no way to get your money back if you are the victim of a fraud. Fraudsters may claim to accept credit cards, but may steal your credit card information to use it in other scams or inform you that payment didn’t go through and request the payment via wire service or gift cards.
  • Research prices for the breed you are interested in adopting. If a purebred dog is advertised for free or at a deeply discounted price, and then other payment is required for services like vaccination or shipping, it could be a fraudulent offer.

If you think you have been scammed, report it to BBB Scam Tracker. You also can report it to petscams.com, which catalogues puppy scammers, tracks complaints and endeavors to get fraudulent pet sales websites taken down.

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