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Online pet scams target lonely victims

The Better Business Bureau warning for online buyers
Adopting a pet during quarantine? Watch out for this puppy scam with a 'COVID-19 twist'
Posted at 5:47 PM, Apr 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-06 08:17:23-04

TUCSON, Ariz.(KGUN) — Pet scams are on the rise and the Better Business Bureau has a warning for anyone looking to buy online. Cats, dogs, and birds, you name it, scammers are working overtime to get your money. Denisse Alvarez with the BBB of Southern Arizona says scams are growing by the day and victims are losing thousands of dollars online.

"We’ve seen up to $5,000. It is something that we have seen increase during the pandemic, and it continues we get calls about it all the time,” Alvarez said. "They are selling them for an unbelievable price and people are thinking oh this breed is thousands of dollars and I’m getting it for $500."

Thieves are preying on those who have spent a lot of time alone during the pandemic and want companionship. One red flag is an excessive line of questioning about where the animal is going. Scammers use this tactic to gain a buyers trust while giving victims a false sense of security.

"Research shows that 80% of those ads are fake,” Alvarez said. "They are sponsored ads, so they put in money to get the sponsor ad out there on social media."

Alvarez says victims send in a down payment, then suddenly the fake seller is asking for more money to pay for hidden charges like travel and veterinarian fees, fees that start to stack up for a pet that never arrives or doesn’t exist.

"People fall in love with those pictures, and they start sending money,” Alvarez said. "The ads that they see online are really enticing for them to pay a low price for the type of breed that they want to get."

The BBB says you should always:

  • Do your research on the sellers and pricing
  • Do not buy a pet without seeing it in person
  • Do a reverse image search online of the pet you want to buy
  • Never wire money, use cash app, or gift cards

Once you wire money you can never get it back, and if you do decide to buy online use a credit card so you can dispute the charges if needed.

You can also avoid the trouble all together and go to a local shelter to find a furry new friend.

Shawndrea Thomas is an anchor and investigative reporter for KGUN 9. Shawndrea is living her dream as a journalist who’s passionate about making a difference. Share your story ideas and important issues with Shawndrea by emailing or by connecting on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.