CHICAGO - The Better Business Bureau warned on Tuesday that some online sites that advertise dogs for sale are really scams.
For Cornelius Dobbs, it's a day of excitement as he adopts new family member Caitlin, a 3-month-old hound mix, from the Anti-Cruelty Society in Chicago.
"Your first option should be adoption, of course, we believe that," said Anti-Cruelty Society President Robyn Barbiers.
But for countless others looking for a pet, it's anything but that as the Better Business Bureau warns about an uptick in scams where fraudulent pet-sellers use the internet to sell non-existent puppies and dogs to families.
"These scammers exploit and harm people who have love in their hearts and just want to give a puppy a good home," said Marc Ayers, with the Humane Society of the U.S.
The scam works like this: you come across a website that looks legit and has dogs and puppies for sale at a lower price. You email the seller, who says they will gladly ship the animal to you. All you have to do is wire transfer the money to them and they'll ship you your new pet.
"Anyone asking you to wire anything or using a gift card for payment is a scam," said Better Business Bureau President and CEO Steve Bernas.
BBB warns of fraudulent online dog sales
Chicago area resident Michael Wilborn said he was almost ripped off for $650 for an English Bulldog puppy his 23-year old daughter saw online.
Wilborn called off the deal after he found the exact same photo of the dog on another page from 2008.
Key findings of a 3-month-long puppy scam study done by the Better Business Bureau in multiple countries shows most of the scams appear to originate from the West African country of Cameroon.
The study revealed:
- At least 80 percent of the sponsored advertising links in an internet search for pets may be fraudulent
- Those most susceptible to the scheme are in their late teens or early 20s
- Requests to meet the seller or see the animal before payment is refused and any contact is usually done by email or text.
"Their English is not very good. There are misspelled words. The phone number has a number missing," said Jeni Redmond with the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association.
Avoid being scammed by following these tips:
- Pick up your pet in person
- Make any purchase with a credit card
- Consider getting a rescue dog