2017-10-06 / On Second Thought


Do you have any advice for people who want to buy a puppy online?
Compiled by Warren Hughes

Like many other shoppers these days, people looking for a new puppy often turn to the internet, so it’s not surprising to hear that ever more prevalent scammers have found a way to exploit those looking for a pet to love.

The National Better Business Bureau has just warned as many as 80 percent of the dog sale advertisements online may be fake. BBB representative Karin Brulliard reports its scam tracker has almost 1,000 reports of such fraud on file, and the FTC has received more than 35,000 similar complaints. Since less than 10 percent of fraud victims actually complain, officials believe the problem actually is much larger than the figures indicate.

The BBB International Investigations Initiative conducted an extensive study of online puppy scams. You can find the full report online at bbb.org/puppyscam. It provides these tips for avoiding fraud:

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

• Never pay a stranger with a money order or through Western Union or Moneygram.

• Always 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 at a deeply discounted price, you could be dealing with a fraudulent offer.

• The Humane Society of the United States, which refers consumers to local shelters, also has tips for finding a reputable breeder.

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

BBB has this advice for people who have been victimized by a puppy scam: file a report with BBB’s Scam Tracker; complain at Petscams.com; complain to the Federal Trade Commission (call 1- 877-FTC-HELP); or contact U.S. Homeland Security Investigations, which handles international fraud (Call 866-DHS-2- ICE (866-347-2423).

Additionally, if you sent money through Western Union, MoneyGram, or a Green Dot MoneyPak, contact those companies directly for information about the transactions. Numbers are Green Dot 1- 800-795-7597; Western Union 1-800-448-1492; and MoneyGram 1-800- 926-9400.

In the study, BBB International Investigations Specialist C. Steven Baker noted, “It is not difficult to understand why the scheme is so pervasive in the U.S. and so successful. Pet ownership is extremely popular, and the selection and purchase of a pet is viewed as the first step toward bringing a new and beloved member into the family.

“In the current digital age, it is no surprise the first step in many people’s search for a new pet begins with the internet. Alas, even the most careful online search is likely to put a consumer in contact with a potential thief. Reports show there are thousands of people around the country, and the world, who have become victims of puppy scams, and many of these typically begin with a fake website and stolen photos, often taken from a legitimate site.” Puppy scam advice also holds true for cat shoppers.

We want to add to the community’s storehouse of knowledge, whether it is a neighborhood matter, a larger issue or a simple curiosity. We’ll do the footwork for you. Submit your questions to mimim@thecolumbiastar.com or pams@thecolumbiastar.com.

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