HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — "They're projecting that over three million dollars will have been lost to pet scams over this COVID period. And that's a huge increase over prior years," said Tricia Pruitt, Regional Vice President for Cullman, Lawrence, Limestone, Morgan and Winston Counties, Better Business Bureau.
And according to the Better Business Bureau's Scam Tracker data, that's more than double the money lost to pet scams last year. Just last month, the Bureau reported 337 incidences of these scams, a major increase compared to the 77 incidences reported during the same month in 2019.
"The joy that a pet brings to your life is another reason that so many people are looking for, you know, that companionship right now and so, the pet scam people know this... They know that our country as a whole is ripe for this type of scam because of the scarcity of the pets, because there's been such a demand and because of the loneliness that people are seeking that companionship, so there's a lot of people looking," said Pruitt.
If you're thinking about getting a pet online, there are a few red flags you should look out for.
"They always come back with some other charge. After they've gotten your first payment, they know they've scammed you out of that much money. But then they'll come back in and try to get more. They will tell you that, like an English Bulldog needed a temperature-controlled crate, that you needed to pay shipping charges to have it sent to you," said Pruitt.
To avoid the disappointment and frustration of being involved in a pet scam, here are some things you can do beforehand:
- Look for reviews online, via Google for example. Or go to the Better Business Bureau website, to see if the business you are interested in, is actually registered to the site.
- Be cautious when sending money through peer-to-peer mobile payment apps, like CashApp or Zelle for instance. These kind of transactions can be hard to dispute or to get your money back if you do in fact get scammed.
- If you cannot go to the location of your possible new pet, ask to Facetime or Zoom with the business owner so you can at least lay eyes on your new pet.
And another piece of advice...
"The advice that I would give to anyone that's looking for a particular kind of pet, where they feel that it's something... they can't get at the animal shelter or adopt, you know, is to ask people you know for references, if you know someone who has that dog type, or cat, or bird, or whatever, ask people you know, ask your vet for recommendations," said Pruitt.
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