ON YOUR SIDE: Beware if buying pet online, scams spike during pandemic

Published: May. 20, 2020 at 5:53 PM CDT
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What better time to get your pet house trained than when you're on quarantine. Because of that, a lot more people are shopping for dogs and cats online, but some of them have come up empty handed.

We've all had long days at home, and a lot of time online.

"We had read that they area highly intelligent, very playful, great with kids, and they don't shed, so we were going to get a sphynx," said Stacy Hulm. She was looking to add one more kitten to the mix.

It would be hard for buyers not to fall for it when you get daily texts and pictures from the seller. But, it was bogus.

"She says we'll deliver it to you, and I'm thinking she's going to drive five hours to deliver it to us! I've never had that happen. Then she calls and says do you mind sending me the rest of the money so we can make the trip? And I was like okay, that's when the bells started going off," said Hulm.

Hulm was already out the $350 deposit. But, for others in the Ozarks, it was even worse.

"In many cases people are losing anywhere from $1,500 to even more," said Stephanie Garland with the Better Business Bureau. She says some legit Web-sites can have imposters who post.

"Scammers are going ahead and using the same exact stock images. So they are taking a picture of a puppy and creating multiple different Web-sites with that same exact image on it," Garland explained.

Stacy won't get taken again, and she's hoping no one else will either.

"Probably my first flag should have been that she didn't use a credible source like PayPal so that you can track your transaction."

Hulm says she thinks she has tracked down the bad guys, but without charges-- we can't release the couple's names. She tells us they are based in the Kansas City area. Christian County is investigating her case.

The BBB says they saw a big spike in pet scams just in the month of April, more so than the three previous months combined. Before you pay any money, insist on safely seeing the animal in person, even during COVID-19.

Here are some tips to help you not get scammed from the Better Business Bureau:

Tips for avoiding puppy scams:

● Don’t buy a pet without seeing it in person. If that isn't possible, conduct an internet search of the picture of the pet you are considering. If the same picture appears on multiple websites, its likely is a fraud. You also can search for text from ads or testimonials, to see if the seller copied it from another website.

● Don’t send money by Western Union, MoneyGram, and a cash app like Zelle or a gift card. These payment methods offer no recourse and no way to get your money back if you are the victim of a fraud. Fraudsters may claim to accept credit cards, but may steal your credit card information to use it in other scams or inform you that payment didn’t go through and request the payment via wire service or gift cards.

● Research prices for the breed you are interested in adopting. If a purebred dog is advertised for free or at a deeply discounted price, and then other payment is required for services like vaccination or shipping, it could be a fraudulent offer.

● Consider reaching out to a local animal shelter. Especially during this time of quarantine, many shelters are looking for fosters to help relieve the animal's stress and reduce overcrowding at their facilities. Humane Society of the United States refers consumers to local shelters. ● If you think you have been scammed, report it to BBB Scam Tracker and the Federal Trade Commission. You also can report it to, which catalogues puppy scammers, tracks complaints and endeavors to get fraudulent pet sales websites taken down.