Pet Scams Rise As More People Seek Dogs During Pandemic

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Wednesday, December 22, 2021 - 7:10am

Lauren Case of Arkansas paid $850 online to a scammer who promised to send a puppy that never arrived. Case filed a complaint with the Arkansas Attorney General's office. Similar cases have skyrocketed across the U.S., boosted by more people looking to adopt pets during the pandemic, reports Stateline. Attorneys general in many states have launched investigations and, filed lawsuits. In the first year of the pandemic, pet adoptions soared, according to the American Pet Products Association, with ownership rising in 2020 to 70 percent of households, an all-time high. The pet frenzy created a shortage, giving scammers a bigger opening. Pet scams "more than doubled last year and are on pace to be pretty much the same this year," said Steve Baker, international investigation specialist for the Better Business Bureau, which runs a scam tracker for bogus pet sites. "It really, really took off during the pandemic. I don't think it's possible to search online for puppies and not come across a scam."

Scammers often pattern their sites after legitimate puppy companies, using the same fonts and sometimes even the same pictures and descriptions, but altering the pictures just slightly, adding a holiday bow or Santa hat at this time of year. The Better Business Bureau said online shopping scam reports to its BBB Scam Tracker jumped during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019, people lodged 1,515 pet scam complaints with losses of $1 million. In 2020 that rose to 4,552 complaints with losses of $3.3 million. Pet scams made up 34.5 percent of online shopping scams reported to the bureau. The number of pet scams remains high this year. In the first nine months of 2021, there were 3,116 reports with losses of $2.4 million. Younger people were more likely to be scammed in 2020, with 51 percent of them under 44. The average financial loss reported to the BBB Scam Tracker was $722. While 82 percent of pet scam reports involved dogs, other animals included cats, birds and iguanas.

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