Online pet scams target lone victims during the pandemic


TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Pet scams are on the rise, and the Better Business Bureau has a warning for anyone looking to buy online. Cats, dogs and birds, you name it, scammers are working overtime to get your money. Denisse Alvarez of the Southern Arizona BBB says scams are increasing day by day and victims are losing thousands of dollars online.

“We’ve seen up to $5,000. That’s something we’ve seen go up during the pandemic, and it’s still going, we get calls about it all the time,” Alvarez said. “They’re selling them at an incredible price and people are thinking oh this breed is worth thousands of dollars and I’m getting it for $500.”

Thieves prey on those who have spent a lot of time alone during the pandemic and want company. A red flag is an excessive line of questions about the animal’s destination. Scammers use this tactic to gain the trust of buyers while giving victims a false sense of security.

“Research shows that 80% of these ads are fake,” Alvarez said. “These are sponsored ads, so they invested money to run the sponsor’s ad on social media.”

Alvarez says victims send in a deposit, then suddenly the fake seller asks for more money to pay for hidden costs like travel and vet fees, charges that start piling up for an animal that doesn’t arrive never or does not exist.

“People fall in love with these photos and start sending money,” Alvarez said. “The advertisements they see online really encourage them to pay a low price for the type of breed they want to get.”

The BBB says you should always:

  • Do your research on sellers and prices
  • Don’t buy a pet without seeing it in person
  • Do an online reverse image search of the animal you want to buy
  • Never transfer money, use cash apps or gift cards

Once you transfer money, you can never get it back, and if you decide to buy online, use a credit card so you can dispute charges if necessary.

You can also stay out of trouble all together and head to a local shelter to find a new furry friend.

Shawndrea Thomas is a presenter and investigative reporter for KGUN 9. Shawndrea is living her dream as a journalist with a passion for making a difference. Share your story ideas and important issues with Shawndrea via email [email protected] or by logging in on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


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