Petunia, 4, was adopted from a Kootenay rescue group in early February. (Sheri Regnier photo)

Puppy scams skyrocket during pandemic

Advisory issued by the Better Business Bureau

Some families obeying stay-at-home orders have turned to the internet to look for a pet, thinking they would have plenty of time to help the pet adjust to its new surroundings.

But the Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises would-be pet owners to ask themselves, “Is that ‘quarantine puppy’ real?”

That’s because many have come across scammers who advertise on websites for animals that do not exist and are never shipped.

The COVID-19 pandemic has given scammers reasons to ask for money or explain why they cannot see the pet in person before heartbroken, expectant owners figure out they’ve been conned.

“Scammers frequently take advantage of the news to find new avenues for targeting victims,” said Karla Laird from the BBB serving Mainland B.C.

“The uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, along with the desire of many Canadians to adopt a pet to help bring joy into their homes has created fertile ground for fraudsters.”

New data from BBB Scam Tracker shows that these scams have spiked since the pandemic took hold across North America, with more reports about fraudulent pet websites in April than in the first three months of the year combined.

People across Canada have reported to BBB about being victims to a puppy scam in the last three months.

BBB is sharing the following tips to avoid being victimized by puppy scams:

– Do not buy a pet without seeing it in person.

– Do not send money by Western Union, MoneyGram, Interac or a gift card. These payment methods offer no recourse and no way to get your money back if you are the victim of a fraud. Fraudsters may claim to accept credit cards, but may steal your credit card information to use it in other scams.

– Research prices for the breed you are interested in adopting. If a purebred dog is advertised for free or at a deeply discounted price, and then other payment is required for services like vaccination or shipping, it could be a fraudulent offer.

– Consider reaching out to a local animal shelter. Especially during this time of quarantine and self-isolation, many shelters are looking for fosters to help relieve the animal’s stress and reduce overcrowding at their facilities.

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