VANCOUVER — The Better Business Bureau says puppy scams are the latest way fraudsters are taking advantage of lonely, isolated people during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A statement from the Better Business Bureau serving Mainland British Columbia says online puppy scams have spiked since the pandemic reached North America.
The bureau says consumer assistance organizations across the country have received more reports about fraudulent pet websites in April than in the first three months of the year combined.
Karla Laird, the spokeswoman for bureau serving Mainland B.C., says scammers are taking advantage of the desire of would-be pet owners to find joy during difficult times.
She says people from Victoria to Toronto and Halifax have reported being victimized while trying to buy a puppy online.
The Better Business Bureau has several tips to guard against the scams, including never to buy a pet without seeing it in person and not to send payments by Western Union, Moneygram or gift cards.
An earlier study of puppy frauds conducted by the bureau found the most successful scams depend sophisticated advertisements to hook unsuspecting consumers.
"Experts believed at that time, that at least 80 per cent of the sponsored advertising links that appear in an internet search for pets may be fraudulent," a statement from the BBB says.
It points to one website claiming to be based in Tulsa, Okla., that specifically targets people trying to buy dogs from the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel breed.
Would-be buyers are advised to check when the website was created and whether any logos or links are authentic.
"Some of the most common traits of scam websites during the pandemic are the fact that they have no online footprint or history, the social media links are not active or not working and the websites were launched between February to April of this year," the bureau warns.
Pet owners should research prices for the breed they are interested in adopting, says the bureau.
If a purebred dog is advertised for free or at a deeply discounted price, and then other payment is required for services like vaccination or shipping, it could be a fraudulent offer, it says.
Local shelters should also be considered a good source to find a dog seeking a home, says the bureau.
The report from The Canadian Press was first published May 12, 2020.
The Canadian Press