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Beware of Puppy Scams!

In the face of the coronavirus and isolating stay-at-home orders, animals are a great source of companionship and comfort. Working from home also provides ample opportunity to spend more quality time with your pet and can make it easier to handle the responsibilities that come with a pet. As a result, the demand for pets, and puppies in particular, has dramatically increased in recent months. A spike in puppy scams, however, has coincided with this demand, and while American Humane is thrilled so many animals are finding their forever homes, we urge you to take extra precautions when searching for that new furry friend.

According to the Better Business Bureau, complaints regarding pet scams have roughly doubled since last year in the U.S. and Canada, and a staggering three out of four sites advertising puppies are fake. In the past 12 months, victims are projected to have lost more than $3 million – more than six times greater than the total losses reported three years ago. Scammers are taking advantage of the COVID-19 crisis by telling shoppers they cannot meet the animals before sending money and then use mobile payment apps to collect funds. Pure bred dogs are expensive, so when people come across a site picturing an adorable puppy that costs $800 instead of $4,000, they think they found an amazing deal. Sadly, the advertised puppy may not exist. While most victims were scammed trying to purchase puppies, about 12 percent tried to purchase cats.

As you continue your search for your new best friend, we provide the following tips to help protect you from scams:

  • Adopt from an animal shelter. Each year, some 4-6 million beautiful animals end up in U.S. shelters. By adopting an animal from a shelter, you can both save a life and improve your own. You also need only pay a nominal adoption fee.
  • Adopt from a reputable breeder. If you wish to adopt a pure-bred puppy, work through reputable breeders. If you find a potential breeder on your own, check that it is affiliated with the local and national breed clubs and a national kennel club (such as the American Kennel Club), and ensure there aren’t any complains about the breeder with the American Kennel Club or the Better Business Bureau.
  • Never wire money and don’t pay in cash or with gift cards.
  • Make a point to see the pet in person before paying any money. Seeing the animal in person is the only way to ensure it’s real. If you can’t see the pet in person due to COVID-19 precautions, request to see them via video chat before proceeding.
  • Be wary of photos. Employ tactics like reverse image searches to see how many other websites the pet appears on – scammers will likely use a similar image across multiple sites.
  • Compare prices. See what price the breed usually costs – don’t always trust the best deal.

Unfortunately, these kinds of scams usually go unpunished and victims never get their money back. Scam attempts are likely to increase further during the holidays and winter months, and anyone who is looking for a pet online is likely to come across at least one scam site. We hope you will follow these suggestions to stay safe and find your perfect pet.

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