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Puppy Scams Are On the Rise This Holiday Season — Here’s How to Avoid Them

If you’re planning on purchasing a new puppy or kitten this holiday season, there’s one place you definitely don’t want to buy your pet: online. While shopping for a four-legged friend is exciting, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning prospective fur parents to beware of online puppy-purchasing scams that are putting people in the financial dog house. 

Puppy Christmas

(Photo Credit: Giphy)

Online scammers operate these puppy scams in a variety of ways. According to the BBB, some of these phony sellers will pretend to be breeders, while others will claim to be a distraught pet owner who is desperately in need of a new home for a dog or cat. Either way, these scammers typically use heartbreaking pet pictures or videos to win you over and convince you to wire money to them. 

You might remember that last year, hopeful shoppers in Pennsylvania got hit particularly hard with puppy scams during the holidays, the BBB reported. A man by the name of Turner Bosler, who claimed to live at a non-existent Pittsburgh address, was advertising Maltipoo and Bichon Frise puppies for sale online. Bosler required his potential pet owners to pay a $250 fee via wire transfer, but once the payment was sent over, Bosler disappeared — leaving the dog-parents-to-be not only out of $250, but without a puppy as well.

Think that sounds bad? Some other fraudulent sellers go even further with the scam by requesting additional wire money for “unexpected” problems, such as the need for a specific pet crate, an expensive vet visit, or pricey pet insurance.

“BBB advises puppy purchasers to do their due diligence and avoid making this particular purchase online, even if the cost seems significantly lower, as you’ll likely pay more in the long run,” Warren King, President of the BBB of Western PA, said in a statement. “It’s a simple process for scammers to set up online ads, social media posts, and free websites to promote a bogus business, so don’t be fooled by pictures that could easily be pirated from legitimate breeders.”

Many people fall victim to these types of scams for one simple reason: They’re being blinded by their emotions.

elf puppy

(Photo Credit: Giphy)

Most of these scammers are posting pictures of sad-looking pets behind bars, along with ads that plead for someone to take in the poor pooch, who must be given up because of a divorce, family relocation, or military duty. Sometimes, as the scam plays out, the victims are asked for more and more money over a period of time — and they oblige, because they couldn’t bear the thought of somehow participating in the poor animal’s abandonment. That’s exactly what happened to Dena Betz, a woman who “purchased” two puppies as Christmas presents for her daughters from Africa for a whopping $2,500.

Betz initially sent the sellers $200. Once the money was transferred, the sellers begged Betz for more, claiming that it would be refunded when the dogs arrived. Sadly, Betz sent what she could in bits until the full $2,500 was paid out, only to be left (on the day of the dogs’ supposed delivery) sitting on the phone with an airport receptionist, who told her she’d been scammed.

6 Tips for Avoiding Online Puppy Scams, According to the BBB

1. Visit the seller. Reputable dog puppy breeders shouldn’t have a problem giving you a tour of their on-site location. Be wary of breeders who refuse to meet face-to-face. 

2. Confirm the location. If no physical location is provided, then ignore the listing. 

3. Never wire money to anyone you don’t know and trust. Once money has been wired, it’s essentially gone forever.

4. Always see the cat or dog in person first. Not only is this the only way to know for sure that the pet is real, it’s a good chance to make sure that he or she will be delivered to you without any problems.

5. Research typical prices on the pets you want. If something seems way off the mark — such as a purebred pup being offered at a reduced cost — it’s probably a fake.

6. Do your homework. If you’re shopping online, verify the legitimacy of the website. If it’s a real business, it should show up on Better Business Bureau’s website. You should also ask the breeder if they’re a member of an American Kennel Club-affiliated club. If they say yes, double check with the club to verify their membership. 

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