You can't teach an old dog new tricks, but the same does not apply to scam artists. As more consumers turn to the Internet to find their new pet, fraudsters see this as another opportunity to steal your money.
Fake online puppy advertisements often include a compelling story about why the animal is available and details about his or her personality. Sometimes, the ads may request a reasonable payment or even claim the pet is available for free - if you pay for shipping. If you pay, you often get additional requests for money, but when all is said and done, a new puppy is never sent to your home.
BBB Scam Tracker has over 900 reports of this type of scam. The BBB International Investigations Initiative has also conducted an extensive study of these fake online ads. The study looks at the scope of this problem, who might be behind it and the need for consumer education to stop this from happening to more people. You can read the full study HERE.
If you are looking for a new furry companion, BBB has a handful of tips to keep from getting duped out of your money:
Don't buy a pet without seeing it in person.
• If you see the same picture on multiple websites, that could be a red flag.
• If you have any doubts about the photo, you can do a reverse search. To do this, right click on the photo and select "copy image address" and paste the link into a search engine such as Google. If the same image shows up in an older listing, chances are it's a scam.
• You can also search the text from ads or testimonials to see if the seller copied it from another site.
Don't use a money transfer service.
• The surest sign of a scam insists you use a service like Western Union or MoneyGram. These transactions are like sending cash; once the transaction is complete, you can't get the money back.
• Use a credit card in case you need to dispute the charges.
Do your Research.
• Ask for detailed information from the person selling the pet. What is the seller's name and phone number? You can do an online search to see if that person has been flagged before.
• Research prices for the breed you are interested in adopting. Someone advertising a purebred dog for free or at a heavily discounted price can be a red flag.
Consider adopting from a local shelter.
• The Humane Society's website can refer you to a local shelter where dogs looking for a good home can be adopted for a small fee. The organization also has tips for finding a reputable dog breeder.
If you have been a victim of this scam, you can file a report with BBB's Scam Tracker and the Federal Trade Commission.