NORFOLK, Va. - There’s been a big increase in puppy scams during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Better Business Bureau says they had more reports of fraudulent pet websites in April than in the first three months of the year combined.
With people spending so much time at home, there are more people looking for pets thinking they’ll have time to train and care for them.
Some of those people who have shopped online sent money without ever getting a puppy, though.
The pandemic is giving scammers a reason to explain why someone can’t see the pet in person first or why they need more money.
“What we're finding is that people are being asked for extra money for a vaccine for this puppy or they're asking to send the money a specific way, for instance, through a gift card, through Zelle or through MoneyGram or some other digital means, and they're saying, ‘Oh, well, we need a specific climate controlled kennel or we need a specific shot or a specific foods, so please send us more money and more money and more money,’ and what they're finding is that sometimes the dog doesn't exist," said Jamie Howell with the BBB.
Howell says you should do some research first to protect yourself.
If you can’t see the puppy in person, start by doing a reverse image search.
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"Search the picture of the animal that you found. Search that specific image to see if it's repeated around the web. Sometimes they'll take stock images or images that look really real, and that image will be used on multiple websites for an imaginary puppy, and if you find that image somewhere else, it's probably a stock image and the dog does not exist," said Howell.
You can also check BBB's scam tracker website.
Another way to protect yourself - don’t send money through a gift card or other digital means.
Once the money is gone, you won’t be able to get it back if you find out you’ve been scammed.