Online pet scams have tripled since last year as people look for furry friends in quarantine

REUTERS/Eriko SugitaA toy poodle puppy.

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Puppy buyers beware: online pet scams have skyrocketed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Better Business Bureau. Reports of this particular scheme, in which fraudsters set up phony websites or post fake advertisements online for dogs that don’t exist, have tripled since last year, according to the BBB.

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the demand for dogs has increased so much that some shelters have stopped accepting applications to foster animals, and breeders have seen waitlists for puppies balloon, according to The Wall Street Journal. In turn, scammers have taken advantage of folks looking for a little canine companionship in quarantine.

“Pet scams are not only the riskiest scams, they are also one of the most heart-breaking,” warned the BBB in a new report.

The non-profit consumer protection organisation says they have seen over 2,000 reports of pet scams in the past few months, and have also seen the usual amount of money lost per scam rise from $US600 to $US700.

One woman told the Better Business Bureau that she was scammed multiple times in her search for a pug. She lost over $US1,100 in the process.

“This seller absolutely played on my emotions and vulnerability,” the woman told BBB. “I’m a highly educated person, but I’ve never felt so stupid in my entire life.”

The BBB recommends that prospective dog-owners see a pet in person, or at least make a video call to view the puppy. Some scammers are taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse not to meet in person, the BBB says. Scammers have also asked for additional funds to vaccinate puppies against COVID-19, a medical option which does not exist.

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