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Every week, join Whitney Quick as she helps you navigate life as a smart consumer. You'll cover everything in avoiding the latest scams, including phishing emails, medical equipment fraud, understanding layaway, hiring a reputable tax preparer, and even digital spring cleaning. Add to your toolbox and flip through your Consumer Handbook Thursdays during NPR’s Morning Edition at 6:42 a.m. and 8:42 a.m., only on KRCU.

Consumer Handbook: Average Losses in Puppy Scams Rise Even as Cases Fall

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jack russel puppy with giftbox

Puppy scams remain consistently profitable for scammers because their multi-tiered setup allows them to convincingly go back to a consumer several times to ask for money, according to an update of a BBB study.

So far this year, while pet scams in North America appear to be on the decline, consumer losses are expected to exceed $2 million. That total is down by a third since the peak of more than $3 million during the pandemic in 2020-2021, according to BBB Scam Tracker. Average monetary losses are climbing, however, with an average loss of $850 in 2022, up 60% since 2017. BBB has tracked this since 2017, when it issued an in-depth study Puppy Scams: How Fake Online Pet Sellers Steal from Unsuspecting Pet Buyers.

Pet scams historically make up a quarter of all online shopping frauds reported to BBB and are on track to be about 18% this year. Because purchasing a pet can be such an emotionally charged experience, BBB urges consumers to be on high alert for scams. Puppy scammers lure people in with fake websites, promises of cute puppies, then ask for more money for shipping or special crates. Consumers say it is easy to be swept up in the emotions of the moment when buying a pet and push forward despite reservations.

BBB Scam Tracker reports show that those who tried to purchase pets without seeing them in person, use hard-to-track payment methods like payment apps, and accept extra charges like shipping insurance or special cages are at an increased risk of being scammed.

Here are tips for researching puppy sellers. See pets in-person before paying any money. Try to set up a video call to view the animal. Conduct a reverse image search on photos attached to ads. Research the breed to figure out the average market price. Check out a local animal shelter for pets to meet in person before adopting.

Cape Girardeau native Whitney Quick is the Regional Director of Better Business Bureau in Cape Girardeau, MO, and is responsible for outreach efforts in Southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois. Quick is a graduate of Cape Girardeau Central High School and Southeast Missouri University where she majored in public relations. Quick enjoys helping educate consumers in the southeast Missouri region by sharing consumer tips with groups and educating them about BBB’s resources.