A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

BBB Trends: And they call it . . . puppy love — scammers fool consumers with fake advertisements

By Sandra Guile
Better Business Bureau

They’re adorable, they’re irresistible, they may very well be a way to scam you.

Scammers have started creating ads with pictures of fluffy, cuddle-worthy puppies to entice you into clicking a link to a fake website. If you send them money to adopt one of the potential pets you see, you’ll most likely end up pretty disappointed.

Common tactics

Each scam starts with a scammer will post an online ad that says a new litter of puppies is ready for adoption and includes the contact information of the person supposedly selling them. When you click on the ad, you’re redirected to a page that allows you to settle things with the seller.

his is an example of a photo a scammer will use

They’ll insist on communicating by email or text and won’t offer to meet in person or talk on the phone. Once you state that you’d like to purchase the dog, the scammer will confirm that the puppy is available, ready to ship and ask you to send money by an untraceable method – usually wire transfer or prepaid card. Depending on what kind of breed they claim the dog to be and what other services they say are included – like insurance, supplies, or veterinary fees – victims of this scam can lose thousands of dollars.

Since the beginning of the year, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office has received approximately 40 puppy scam complaints with an average loss of $600 per case.

Red Flags

Even though it’s hard to resist an adorable face and a decent deal, there are a few ways to avoid being put in the doghouse:

• Visit the seller – responsible breeders and reputable rescues are more than happy to offer you a tour and let you see the available puppies in person.

• Check their references – read online reviews and talk to other people who have purchased pets from the place you’re considering to make sure they’re trustworthy.

• Look for website warning signs – fake puppy sale sites look legitimate because they steal content from other websites. An easy way to spot a duplicate site: copy a line of text from the website and paste it into a search engine.

• Select on-site – rather than relying on pictures to pick your perfect pet and waiting on a breeder to send them to you, visit the site and make your choice in person.

• Use a credit card – this offers additional protection if you do make an online purchase. Asking a customer to pay by wire transfer or prepaid card is illegal, and any breeder that pressures you to do so is most likely a scam.

Report It

Picking the perfect pet for your family is exciting, and if pictures of puppy-dog eyes swayed you toward a scam, make sure to report it to BBB’s Scam Tracker – especially if you lost money. Consider adopting from a shelter; you’ll be able to go in and choose the pet that’s right for your family. Visit bbb.org for more details on shelters in your area.

Sandra Guile is the Community Outreach Specialist for BBB. She promotes BBB’s message of marketplace ethics through public speaking engagements, presentations, media relations, press releases, web content, and other written materials. Contact Sandra at (513) 639-9126 or sguile@cincinnati.bbb.org. The BBB of Central & Eastern KY is located at 1390 Olivia Lane, Suite 100 , Lexington, KY 40511. Reach them at 859-259-1008 or toll-free at 1-800-866-6668. For general inquiries: info@bluegrass.bbb.org

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