Consumer Handbook: Purchasing a puppy online remains extremely risky, BBB warns holiday shoppers
The demand for “quarantine puppies” and other pets increased dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing with it a spike in scams that has persisted even as virus-related lockdowns have abated.
Online pet scams – in which an online search ends with a would-be pet owner paying hundreds of dollars or more to adopt a pet that ultimately doesn’t exist -- are especially pervasive during the holiday season, when families may be looking to add a furry family member as a gift.
Better Business Bureau advises extreme caution if shopping for a pet online. In addition to a shortage of puppies available due to high demand, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suspended imports of dogs to the U.S. from 100 countries deemed at high risk of rabies. The U.S. imports 1 million dogs each year.
People currently shopping for pets online are very likely to encounter a scam listing in an online ad or website. Knowing the red flags associated with this scam can help consumers avoid heartache and losing their money.
Here are recommendations for purchasing a pet online. See the pet 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 actual pet for sale. Since scammers are not likely to comply with the request, this may help avoid a scam. Do a reverse image search of the photo of the pet and search for a distinctive phrase in the description. Do research to get a sense of a fair price for the breed you are considering. Think twice if someone advertises a purebred animal for free or at a deeply discounted price - it could be a fraudulent offer.