BBB issues warning as online pet scams increase during pandemic

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PITTSBURGH, Pa. (WJW) — The Better Business Bureau is warning Americans of online pet scams.

There has been a significant increase in the number of pet adoptions and pet-related purchases since the coronavirus outbreak began, the BBB office serving western Pennsylvania reports.

The organization is now warning consumers to be wary of making online purchases for pet products from unknown retailers.

Since the beginning of March through the end of June, Super Paws, an online retailer claiming to “specialize in high-quality, affordable pet products,” has received over 3,300 inquiries on BBB.org.

Consumers allege that after placing an order through the company’s website, Super Paws never ships the product and the orders are never received. Shoppers have also reported poor customer service, saying the company does not provide contact information.

“Payment was taken from my bank account and I received an order confirmation with a 3-5 day shipping period, with minor delays expected due to COVID. Two months later, the company is not responding to emails, still accepting online orders and my item has not yet shipped to me,” a Philadelphia resident told the BBB.

“I placed an order for a product on their website, was charged for the amount and never received my order. I have emailed the company multiple times and a representative continues to respond with excuses rather than honor my request for a full refund,” another customer complained.

119 complaints have been filed against the company by consumers in 29 states and Canada. The BBB is conducting an investigation into the matter.

Watch our previous report on new schemes that arose during the pandemic in the video below:

Additionally, officials say that pet-related scams now comprise of approximately 25 percent of online scams reported to BBB Scam Tracker.

“As important as it is for consumers to ensure they are purchasing an actual pet online, it’s just as important for pet owners to take necessary precautions online when purchasing pet products for their new companions,” Warren King, president of the Better Business Bureau serving Western PA, said in a press release.

The BBB advises consumers to take the following steps to stay safe shopping online:

  • Buy from reputable online retailers. Consumers can check out the company’s Business Profile at BBB.org and determine the age of the website’s domain by using a service like WhoIs. You should look for poor grammar, lack of information, capital letters in the middle of sentences and other potential red flags, such as misuse of the BBB logo and other trustmarks and overly discounted deals.
  • Verify contact information. Inspect the company’s website for a physical address and phone number. Ensure the location exists and the phone number is legitimate and responsive. Check for an “About Us” page and whether listed information contains generic details or a full brand history.
  • Purchase with a credit card. In case of fraud, a credit card provides additional protections through the Fair Credit Billing Act and is easier to dispute a charge. If the product arrives defective or doesn’t arrive at all, you can dispute the charge and temporarily withhold payment while the creditor investigates them.
  • Be mindful of security. The BBB says a trustworthy online seller will have a secure domain (https://) to keep your information safe from hackers. Customers should review a website’s privacy policy, terms and conditions and understand what personal information is being requested and how it will be used.
  • Keep documentation. Be sure to know and understand the website’s return and refund policy. Save a copy of the order confirmation page or confirmation email until the item is received.

For more information on scams and the additional tips for smart online shopping, visit the BBB’s website.

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