Common Law - The FindLaw Consumer Protection Law Blog

Puppy Scams? Yes, Puppy Scams

Is nothing sacred anymore? Can we not even leave pure, innocent animals out of our online scams these days?

Apparently not. The Better Business Bureau is reporting that 80 percent of sponsored advertisements about pets may be fake, leading to hundreds of thousands of dollars lost to pet fraud. Scam artists are posting pictures of puppies, taking payment, and then never producing the pet. These people are monsters.

Phantom Pets

"These cases can be devastating to families who are waiting for pets that will never come," said Beverly Baskin, president and CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB). "These are not just a few isolated cases of naïve consumers being taken. This is a highly organized, international scheme focused on one thing -- stealing people's money."

It's just about the saddest scam you've ever heard of, but it is avoidable. First, you should never buy a pet without seeing it in person. And unless the pet is a surprise, you'll want to see how it interacts with other members of your family or household. Also, take the Humane Society's advice and visit a local shelter -- you'll meet animals truly in need and you'll be able to verify their existence.

Finding Your Best Friend Online

If you're intent on purchasing a pet from the internet, the BBB has some other pieces of advice:

  • Do an internet search of the picture of the pet you are considering. If the same picture appears on multiple websites, you may be dealing with a fraud. You also can search for text from ads or testimonials to see if the seller copied it from another site.
  • Never pay a stranger with a money order or through Western Union or Moneygram.
  • Always 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.

You can also research local scams using the BBB Scam Tracker if you want to perform a little background check on a potential pet seller.

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