SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Families looking to bring a new family member into the fold during the coronavirus pandemic are becoming victims of scammers, according to the Better Business Bureau.
Pet scams have spiked since the pandemic began, the BBB reports, with more reports about fraudulent pet websites in April than in the first three months of 2020 combined.
The scams usually depend on fake, but sophisticated, advertisements to lure victims. Experts say at least 80 percent of sponsored links in online searches for pets may be fraudulent, the BBB says.
The agency notes that actual incidents of pet fraud could be higher than reported because some victims may choose not to file complaints or refuse help.
"Scammers frequently take advantage of the news to find new avenues for targeting victims," says Steve McFarland, president and CEO of BBB of Los Angeles and Silicon Valley. "The uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic along with the desire to adopt a pet sight unseen has created an opportunity for fraudsters."
If you're in the market for a new furry friend, the BB recommends several tips to stay safe, including:
- Don't send money through Western Union, MoneyGram, mobile money transfer apps, or gift cards. These options usually don't offer any refund methods.
- Research prices for pets you're looking to adopt. Offers like purebred dogs being free or deeply discounted though other payments are needed for vaccination or shipping could be fake.
- Consider adopting from a local animal shelter or help foster from animal shelters to reduce animals' stress and facility overcrowding.
- If you think you've been scammed, contact the BBB Scam Tracker, petscams.com, or FTC to report it.