Beware of the Christmas puppy scam

RICHMOND, Va. — The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has issued a warning about a pet scam targeting dog lovers in Central Virginia. Nearly half of the dozen pet scam investigations launched by the BBB in 2016 have taken place in November and December — and the BBB believes the problem will continue through the holiday season.

“It’s the same story – you find a cute, cuddly pet online and wire funds to the breeder only to never receive the pet,” a BBB spokesperson said. “Sometimes the company demands additional funds to ship the pet or for ‘unexpected conditions.’ Sadly, the scammer has stolen your money with no intention of transporting the pet because the pet doesn’t exist.”

Some victims told the BBB they lost up to $5,000 to scammers.

So what can you do you protect yourself?

“BBB encourages anyone shopping for a pet online to request an updated picture of the pet with your full name on a piece of paper next to the pet or make arrangements to meet the pet in person before sending money,” the spokesperson said.

In addition:

Do a Google Image Search to see if the picture of the pet has been used on other websites before.

Consider buying local. Buying from a local breeder or pet store allows you the opportunity to visit with the animal and check out the facility before making a purchase. Having an animal shipped does not allow the opportunity to make sure the animal is healthy, or if it even exists.

Ask if the breeder is a member of an American Kennel Club-affiliated club and contact the club to verify membership.

Visit the breeding facility before the purchase and bring your pet home personally, do not purchase a pet from a website. When you have a pet shipped from another area, you don’t know how that pet has been treated, how healthy or young it is, or whether or not the pet exists at all.

Don’t be fooled by a well-designed website. Unscrupulous scammers will often create a professional-looking but fraudulent website designed to lure the potential buyer in with cute pet pictures.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Scammers will continually ask for more money for unexpected, and fraudulent, costs.