It’s a dream come true for many kids: Seeing a big box adorned with a red ribbon with a sweet little puppy inside underneath the Christmas tree. But while this dream can pull at a person’s heartstrings, it can soon turn into a Christmas nightmare if you are scammed. The Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker has seen an increase in people losing money to pet scams this holiday season.
The story often plays out with someone finding an adorable puppy on a website or online advertisement. Sometimes, scammers pretend to be dog breeders and create elaborate websites. Other times, they act like a distraught pet owner who must find a new home for their beloved dog or cat. Either way, once you’ve fallen in love with the pictures and videos, they ask you to wire money to make the purchase.
Once the purchase is complete, the “owner” promises your dog or cat will be shipped right away. But there are always “unexpected” problems: The airline requires a specific pet crate, you must pay for an expensive vet visit or the shipper requires costly pet insurance. With each problem, scammers promise that they will refund the unexpected costs as soon as your pet is delivered. Unfortunately, your dog or cat never existed in the first place.
Tips to protect yourself from pet scams
- Never wire money to people or companies you don’t know and trust. Once money is wired, it is gone for good. The same goes for prepaid debit cards or gift cards when making payments for goods, services, taxes and debts. Also say no to cash-only deals, high-pressure sales tactics, high upfront payments, overpayments and handshake deals.
- When looking for that new member of your family, take time to see the pet in-person. This is one way of making sure your cat or dog exists and will be delivered to you without fail. Also, it is important if you are meeting people in person don’t fall for high-pressure sales tactics; it’s never a good idea to make an important decision quickly.
- Research prices and breeders. Make sure you know roughly how much the specific breed you are interested in costs. If someone is offering a purebred puppy at an extremely reduced price, chances are it’s a fraud. Visit bbb.org to check the reputation of an online seller, breeder or distributor. Ask the breeder for references and contact people who have bought puppies from him or her in the past. Try to talk to people who have had their dog for a while in order to check for issues that may not be immediately apparent, such as genetic problems.