Online pet sale scams increasing

Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota

 

Scammers are pulling some old tricks out of their hats and using fake websites to con would-be pet owners out of money.

Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota saw a rise in this type of scam this summer, with several consumers reporting similar experiences: they find an irresistibly adorable pet for sale online and wire money to the seller, who is tasked with shipping the pet to them, but instead the seller pockets the cash and is never heard from again.

One 14-year-old girl from Arkansas had been saving money to purchase herself a puppy and, with help from her dad, wired funds to Best Golden Doodle Family Pubs claiming to be in Edina, Minnesota, only to never receive the puppy. Another woman reported losing $900 to the same fake company, which uses a phony website like goldendoodlepuppies.us to make sales.

The website further tries to trick consumers by showcasing an American Kennel Club (AKC) logo and claiming to be “certified” with the AKC. According to the AKC, the club does not certify breeders or sellers. Rather, breeders register their litters with the club, and golden doodles are not a registrable breed.

Not only are scammers trying to finagle money from consumers for the cost of the pet, but some have successfully convinced buyers to pay exorbitant shipping or insurance costs on top of the purchase price. One woman in Minnesota was told she would need to pay an additional $960 for a special dog crate – a cost that would supposedly be refunded after the dog’s flight.

Unfortunately, that crate fee will never be refunded, and no pet will ever arrive. According to the Minnesota Board of Animal Health, specialty crates aren’t required for animals to fly unless it’s subzero or inclement weather conditions; under normal circumstances, a run of the mill carrying crate will suffice.

The best way to avoid this scam is to only buy pets after meeting the animal, and the breeder or owner, face-to-face. It’s easy to let emotions and instant gratification take over when it comes to puppies and other adorable pets, but if consumers want to become pet parents and not scam victims, restraint is necessary.

To avoid this scam, BBB offers this advice:

• Don’t trust everything a website claims. Call the AKC’s customer service line at 919-233-9767 to verify a litter if the owner claims to be associated with the club, or search the club’s site at  www.akc.org.

• Don’t ever wire money. A request to wire money is a huge red flag that the transaction is a scam. Wire transfers don’t offer consumer protection in the same way a credit card company can.

• Beware of websites or ads with spelling errors. Spelling errors and incorrect grammar are usually signs of a scam as many scams originate overseas where English is not the scammer’s first language.

• If the price is too good to be true, it’s probably a scam. Always be skeptical of sob stories or other justifications for a low price on a pet, especially if the animal is purebred. These offers sound good, but it’s often a bait and switch tactic, where the scammer requests more money later.

• Make sure you have a written contract. No matter where you purchase a pet from, be sure you have the terms, conditions and guarantees in writing.

• Get two references. Breeders work for you, and you shouldn’t hesitate to ask for references. Ask clients if they were happy with their experience and if any problems arose from the transaction.

If you’ve been a victim of a pet scam, you can:

• File a report with BBB’s Scam Tracker

• Write a complaint  at petscams.com

• Report it to the Federal Trade Commission by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP

At the end of the day, if you sense something seems “off” with a transaction, take that opportunity to ask more questions or — even better — research a breeder or company using bbb.org.

 

BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota is a not-for-profit organization with more than 7,200 regionally Accredited Businesses. The mission of BBB is to promote, through self-regulation, the highest standards of business ethics and conduct, and to instill public confidence in responsible businesses through programs of education and action that inform, protect and assist the public. Contact the BBB at wwwbbb.org or 651-699-1111, toll-free at 1-800-646-6222.

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