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BBB, RCMP warn British Columbians about puppy scams

There's been a rise in puppy scams since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic
The BBB and the BC RCMP are warning British Columbians about online puppy scams.

British Columbians looking to bring home a new puppy are being warned of a rise in scams targeting hopeful pet owners.

B.C. Mounties said there was a rise in puppy scams as the pandemic saw more people looking to adopt as they spent more time at home.

Meanwhile, the Better Business Bureau said it has received reports about a new version of the scam since the start of the year, which targets those looking to adopt from an animal shelter or rescue.

Once the victim messages the poster of the ad for information, they are told a “heart-tugging backstory” and are asked to pay a refundable deposit to “hold” the puppy or to cover transportation fees to ship the puppy to their new home.

Most scammers ask for payments to be made through wire transfer, e-transfer or use a pre-paid debit card or gift card, according to the BBB. The scam can also include cats or other pets.

In yet another version of the scam, the con artists offer to ship the dog – but only after victims cover emergency vet visits, extra shipping fees or even a COVID-19 test. The scammers may promise to refund the money after the pet is delivered and create a “sense of urgency” by claiming the pet will be put down if victims don’t pay up.

“Once they have your money, the scammers disappear and you realize the dog never existed,” the BBB said.

Mounties, meanwhile, said they have seen cases where victims would spot an online ad for a puppy, only to be asked to pay a deposit when they enquire about the dog. However, once the money is sent, the victim is given a fake address at which to pick up the puppy and the scammer stops responding.

Some tips to avoid puppy scams:

  • Consider adopting from a reputable rescue organization or contacting a registered breeder with the Canadian Kennel Club
  • If the person is claiming to be a breeder, ask for their breeder registration information and verify that information.
  • Don’t adopt or buy a pet without seeing it in person or setting up a video call.
  • If an a says the poster is giving the dog away for free but then asks you to cover travel fees and other costs, it’s likely a scam
  • If someone is selling a purebred dog at a price that seems too good to be true, it is likely a scam
  • Ask for multiple photos of the puppy and compare them to ensure the dog is the same and that they are not stock photos
  • Research the shelter