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‘Avoid wiring money:’ BBB warns of puppy scams with COVID-19 twist

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MILWAUKEE — The BBB is warning consumers that puppy scams have taken on a COVID-19 twist. The BBB is receiving Scam Tracker reports of potential pet owners being told they have to pay extra for a crate or insurance to have a pet shipped because of the coronavirus.

In each of the cases reported, victims were also asked to provide an alternate payment, such as a gift card, or mobile banking option that was not part of the original transaction. These are red flags that the dealer is not legitimate and they probably don’t have the pet they are attempting to sell.

BBB previously conducted a study reviewing the scope of this problem, who is behind it, and the need for law enforcement consumer education to address the issue. You can read the full study here or download a PDF here.

How to avoid puppy scams:

• Don’t buy a pet without seeing it in person. If that isn’t possible, conduct an internet search of the picture of the pet you are considering. If the same picture appears on multiple websites, it may be a fraud. You also can search for text from ads or testimonials, to see if the seller copied it from another site.

 Avoid wiring money, if possible. Use a credit card, in case you need to dispute the charges.

• Research prices for the breed you are interested in adopting. If someone is advertising a purebred dog for free or at a deeply discounted price, you could be dealing with a fraudulent offer.

• Consider reaching out to your local animal shelter. Especially during this time of quarantine, many shelters are looking for fosters to help relieve the animal’s stress and reduce overcrowding at their facilities.  The Humane Society of the United States refers consumers to local shelters. They also have tips for finding a reputable breeder.

• Learn about fraud in your area at BBB Scam Tracker.

What if you have been a victim of a puppy scam?

• File a report with BBB’s Scam Tracker

• Complain at Petscams.com

• Complain to the Federal Trade CommissionCall 1-877-FTC-HELP

• Homeland Security Investigations at the Department of Homeland Security also handles international fraud. Call 866-DHS-2-ICE (866-347-2423) (from U.S. and Canada)

For more information or further inquiries, contact the Wisconsin BBB at www.bbb.org/wisconsin, 414-847-6000 or 1-800-273-1002.

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