Warmer temperatures often spur would-be pet owners to action. Many, looking for puppies, turn to the internet and type in the dog breed they’re looking for, starting their search for the right pet that way. Unfortunately, scammers know this and they’re lying in wait. Better Business Bureau ® of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) has noted an uptick in both phony pet websites and people falling prey to fraudsters, leaving them out serious money and still without a pet.
“What online scammers prey on is the enthusiasm of pet lovers,” said Susan Adams Loyd, President and CEO of BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. “They create authentic-looking websites, steal photos from legitimate pet sellers or breeders and then simply wait for victims to come to them.”
In the last few months, BBB has received several reports from people who thought they had found the perfect pet online. After corresponding with the ‘pet sellers’ – exclusively by email – they wired anywhere from $700 to $1,200 to claim their pets. However, these payments did not secure their pups; instead, it led to claims by the sellers that the pets were being held at the airport and additional transport, vaccination or insurance fees were due before their pets could be delivered. At this point in the process, most people realize something is amiss and they’ve been defrauded.
When starting your search for the right pet, the first thing to know is that scammers are out there and they want your business. Rather than entering a type of breed into a search engine, be deliberate. If a pedigreed pet is important to you or if there is a certain breed you’re focused on, begin with a visit to the American Kennel Club’s website (akc.org/), where you’ll find information on dog breeds, dog ownership, pet nutrition and general care.
From there, it’s a good idea to stay local or stick with established breeders, shelters or pet stores. Start your search by researching the track records of pet sellers at bbb.org. There are many reputable rescue agencies you can work with as well, with most focusing on a specific breed they champion and support. Buying a puppy through these organizations often helps them continue to extend their aid to other pets of that breed.
To avoid online pet scams, BBB offers the following advice:
In Minnesota, commercial breeders need to be licensed. Finally, no matter who you purchase a puppy from, be sure you have a written contract with terms, conditions and guarantees spelled out. If something about the transaction isn’t feeling right, pay attention to that feeling.