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Be cautious of online pet purchases during National Puppy Day

Pet schemes are taking a big bite out of consumers’ wallets and hearts in Texas.

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Pet schemes are tough because so many of us have a soft spot for animals. It is hard to say no to those big puppy eyes. 

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) reports pet schemes are the most common type of online fraud and the most reported scheme in San Antonio. Texans lost more than $25,000 just in the first three months of 2022 to them. These schemes start online with adorable pictures of animals that need homes.

“Pictures can be duplicated or copied,” said Jason Meza of the BBB. “Online resellers use multiple sites, but the same sad story using different names. It might be a tip-off. Doing a Google reverse image search will yield a lot of answers for you because you’ll see the same pet and different names and that could be a tip-off as well.”

The internet is a great place to start to do research on particular breeds, but may not be the best place to make a pet purchase.

“The problem is we go online to research and we end up getting lured or finding a beautiful picture of a pet that needs a home a home,” said Meza.

Puppies are the most popular type of animal to use to trick buyers, but you will also see schemes with kittens, reptiles, and birds.

“Breeders, online sellers, resellers online, be very careful,” Meza said. “It was reported that about 80 percent of sponsored pet ads might be fake at any point. So that’s eight out of every 10 ads you see online in a social media setting or a chat room, or even a website promoting pets for sale. You could end up in a scam.”

In many cases, consumers only find out they were schemed when the pet never arrives and after they paid $100s in shipping costs. The best protection is to see the potential pet through a live video chat or in-person is even better before you purchase.

Plus, only use a credit card to pay for a pet. It is the only form of payment that offers consumer protections so you can get a refund.

“It makes it so easy to pay with cash apps,” Meza said. “But it makes it harder to get money back. So the convenience factor is one, but again disputing a charge or trying to get money back, it’s not going be in your benefit.”

This scheme can really be painful to your pocketbook. On average, people lose $1,363. 

National Puppy Day is next week on Wednesday, March 23. Be aware schemers will be active online trying to sell puppies that are not real. Also, watch out for animal charities that ask for money that day.

“Do your own research, start your own process of giving, make sure you have the right websites, and don’t respond to appeals that come unsolicited, especially during these times,” Meza said.

Do not forget you can always adopt a pet from a local shelter.

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