BBB warns of holiday puppy scams after uptick in reports


OAKLAND (KRON) – The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning you to be aware if you’re shopping online for a pet this holiday season after the agency says it’s noticed an uptick in complaints and reports.

According to the BBB, reports have increased 39% since 2017 when it first alerted consumers about the problem.

In the last three years, the agency says it has received nearly 16,000 complaints and reports from consumers about fake businesses selling puppies and other pets.

Officials also estimate about 10% of victims report these crimes, so the problem may be even worse.

The study also found that in 60% of reports to BBB regarding dog sellers, consumers allegedly never received the pets they purchased.

More than 5,000 complaints and scam reports were registered about sellers of dogs, kittens, birds, reptiles and other pets.

Here’s how it works – you find a cute puppy ad or website online, with scammers claim they are breeders or pet sellers.

They also may pretend to be distraught pet owners who need to find a new home for their pets.

Once you inquire about the pet, you’re then prompted to wire money through services such as Western Union or Moneygram to complete the purchase.

The “seller” promises your pet will be shipped right away, but problems seem to come out of the blue and in many cases the pet is never delivered and the victim is never refunded.

BBB has issued the following tips to help protect you from pet scams:

  • If possible, inspect the pet yourself by arranging to meet with the prospective seller in person. Most legitimate breeders will welcome the visit.
  • Never send money via Western Union and Moneygram to people or companies you don’t know and trust. Once the money is wired, it is gone for good. The same goes for prepaid debit cards or gift cards. Always use a credit card in case you need to dispute the charges. If anyone asks you to pay for anything with a gift card, you may be dealing with fraud. has also has warned people about paying with Zelle, a digital payment system.
  • Do an internet search for the picture of the pet you are considering. If the same picture appears on multiple websites, you may be dealing with a fraud. You also can search for text from ads or testimonials to see if the seller copied it from another site.
  • Research prices for the breed you are interested in adopting or purchasing. If someone advertises a purebred dog for free or at a deeply discounted price, you could be dealing with a fraudulent offer. If they state that they register their dogs with a specific organization or registry, confirm by contacting the registry or organization directly.
  • Check out the website. Go to to see if a site selling pets is bogus.
  • Find out what other consumers are saying. Check BBB Scam Tracker and do an internet search on the breeder’s or organization’s name.
  • If you have been a victim or see a puppy scam, report it to BBB Scam Tracker.

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