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DEFENDERS: Puppy scams see sharp rise in 2020

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More and more people are buying puppies at an all-time high. The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically increased the demand for pets as people look for support during a time of loneliness.

With this rising demand, pet scams have also increased significantly. In November of 2020, the Better Business Bureau reports 337 complaints were filed regarding puppy scams. In November of 2019, there were 77 reports.

With some cities and states under restrictions, many have turned to online browsing which is a scammers arsenal. Many fraudsters are telling would-be pet owners they cannot meet the animals before sending money.

In addition to telling buyers they cannot meet a pet before paying because of the pandemic, fraudsters have made COVID-19 related money requests like special climate-controlled crates, insurance and a (non-existent) COVID-19 vaccine.

With the increase in scam activity has also come an evolution in tactics. Scam Tracker data indicates that mobile payment apps like Zelle and CashApp are often used now. Both those apps have issued warnings about pet scams.

Here's what you can do if you are buying pets online:

  • See the pet in person before paying any money.
  • Do a reverse image search.
  • Do research to get a sense of a fair price.
  • Check out a local animal shelter online.
  • Check out

The American Kennel Club also has recommendations on some red flags to look out for when looking for a pet.

So far, in 2020 3,969 pet scams were reported to the BBB. Those reports totaled $2,843,552 in money loss.

Article Topic Follows: Defenders
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Deborah Kendrick

Deborah is a weekday evening anchor and investigative reporter for ABC 17 News.


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