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Better Business Bureau warns consumers of widespread online pet scam

[FILE] A stock photograph of a bulldog.

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The Better Business Bureau is issuing a warning to potential pet buyers that an international scheme to sell non-existent pets to consumers may be more widespread than initially believed.

If you’re looking for a new pet, experts say a shocking 80% of online sponsored advertisements about pets may be fake.

The BBB International Investigations Initiative conducted a study of online pet scams. It looks at the scope of this problem, who is behind it, and the need for law enforcement consumer education to address the issue.

The study has produced the following tips to avoid pet scams:

  • Don’t buy a pet without seeing it in person. Do an internet search of 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.
  • Never pay a stranger with a money order or through Western Union or Moneygram.
  • Always use a credit card in case you need to dispute the charges.
  • Research prices for the breed you are interested in adopting. If someone is advertising a purebred dog for free or at a deeply discounted price, you could be dealing with a fraudulent offer.

If you feel like you have fell victim to this scam, you can report it here.

You can also issue a complain to the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP.  If you sent money through Western Union, MoneyGram or a Green Dot MoneyPak, the BBB says to contact those companies directly for information about the transactions.