BBB alert: Beware of puppy scams this holiday season

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(WJW)- A warning from the BBB if you are looking online to purchase a pet for the holidays.  According to the BBB, complaints are pouring into their scam tracker regarding pet and puppy scams.

A recent BBB study found that many of the ads are scams and anyone looking online for a pet will likely see one.

According to the BBB news release here is how the alleged scam works:  People pose as breeders or pet sellers using an adorable puppy on a website or online ad. They may also pretend to be a distraught pet owner who needs to rehome their beloved dog.  The BBB said in both cases, once you ask about the pet, they will have you wire money to them to complete the purchase.  The “seller” then promises your pet will be shipped right away. But there are always unexpected problems ranging from issues with the airline or pet insurance,  all of which need to be paid in advance. The BBB said in the release, with each problem the scammers promise to refund the unexpected costs when the pet is delivered. In many cases, the pet is never delivered and neither is the refund.

“Scammers love to try to take advantage of people when they are in high emotion situations,” says Christy Page, CEO of BBB | Akron. “The excitement of buying a new pet can cloud good judgment, and victims can be hurt financially and emotionally when they realize they have lost their money along with hopes for a new pet.”

There have been nearly 16,000 complaints over the past three years filed with the BBB regarding the selling of puppies and other pets.

The BBB has the following tips to protect yourself from pet scams:

●      If possible, inspect the pet yourself by arranging to meet with the prospective seller in person. Most legitimate breeders will welcome the visit.

●      Never send money via Western Union and Moneygram to people or companies you don’t know and trust. Once the money is wired, it is gone for good. The same goes for prepaid debit cards or gift cards. Always use a credit card in case you need to dispute the charges. If anyone asks you to pay for anything with a gift card, you may be dealing with fraud. has also warned people about paying with Zelle, a digital payment system.

●      Do an internet search for 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.

●      Research prices for the breed you are interested in adopting or purchasing. If someone advertises a purebred dog for free or at a deeply discounted price, you could be dealing with a fraudulent offer. If they state that they register their dogs with a specific organization or registry, confirm by contacting the registry or organization directly.

●      Check out the website. Go to to see if a site selling pets is bogus.

●      Find out what other consumers are saying. Check BBB Scam Tracker and do an internet search on the breeder’s or organization’s name.

●      If you have been a victim or see a puppy scam, report it to BBB Scam Tracker.

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