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Canadians to collectively lose $3M in pandemic-related pet scams: Better Business Bureau

Last Updated Dec 2, 2020 at 2:52 pm PST

(iStock Photo)

BBB's scam tracker says thieves have mostly been targeting people looking for French bulldogs and Yorkshire Terriers

The projected dollar loss in 2020 for these pet-related scams is expected to top $3 million

This year's losses could be more than six times the total losses in similar scams reported for 2017

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – If you’re planning on adding a furry, four-legged friend to your household, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is again issuing a warning.

So-called “quarantine pets” have been helping people cope with the loneliness and isolation COVID-19 restrictions have brought on, and that’s also meant a hefty financial cost.

As scammers continue to target Canadians looking to acquire a pet, pet scams reported to the BBB are slated to hit about five times as many as in 2017, when the bureau published its first in-depth investigative study on pet scams.

What’s more, the monetary losses for 2020 across the country are expected to surpass $3 million dollars, according to a release.

“Looking at Canada in 2019, pet scams cover 3.1 per cent of scams reported for the year when compared to almost 9 per cent for this year so far. Of all scams reported for this year, 6 per cent concerned puppy scams.,” the release reads.

People were also reporting scams connected to parrots and kittens.

The median amount of financial loss by each Canadian reporting a scam is $1,045, which is more than double the median loss of $500 when comparing with last year.

“While a ‘quarantine pet’ has proven to be a comfort for many people, it has also created fertile ground for fraudsters. People currently shopping for pets online are prime targets for fraudsters trolling the internet in search of potential pet owners,” says spokesperson Karla Laird.

RELATED: Watch out for home improvement, puppy scams: Better Business Bureau out with top scams during pandemic

“Scammers are also connecting consumers with fraudulent shipping companies that they have to pay to deliver the nonexistent pets – two of which are Global Logistics Shipping Services and Global Shippings Company. Losses reported go as high as $5,000. Knowing the red flags associated with this scam can help consumers avoid losing their money as well as the heartache that follows when they realize there is no pet to take home to their families,” continues Laird.

One B.C. resident, who was not named in this release, shared an experience involving one of these alleged companies. The person paid $668 by e-transfer to someone named Ray.

“I was told the shipment company, Global Logistics Shipping Services, would contact me from there. They told me the puppy was vet checked but couldn’t leave because I needed to rent a thermal crate for $1428. They said I would be refunded upon the dog’s delivery by cash or cheque, and that once I sent them an e-transfer to their email address, then the dog would be on his way within 25 minutes and I’d receive flight information.”

That person made the payment but was told they’d have to pay another $1,800 for pet insurance for the dog’s flight.

“I told him this was ridiculous and he hung up and after that, the number was no longer in service. I decided to call Ray and he made me repeat a series of degrading statements to ensure the puppy would get to me. After days of hearing nothing, I tried calling Ray again but the number was no longer in service either.”

Along with making requests for special items like funding for climate-controlled crates, scammers are also getting people to pay before they see their potential pet.

If you end up becoming the victim of an online pet scam, contact the following:

  • Contact the Better Business Bureau – BBB Scam Tracker to report a scam online.
  • Canadian Antifraud Centre – antifraudcentre-centreantifraude or call 1-888-495-8501 for scams involving Canada.
  • Petscams.com – petscams.com/report-pet-scam-websites tracks complaints, catalogues puppy scammers and endeavours to get fraudulent pet sales websites taken down.
  • Your credit card issuer – Contact them if you provided your credit card number, even if the transaction was not completed.

BBB is recommending the following for consumers buying pets online:

  • See the pet in person before paying any money. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, consider a video call with the seller so you can see the seller and the actual pet for sale. Since scammers are not likely to comply with the request, this may help avoid a scam.
  • Do a reverse image search of the photo of the pet and search for a distinctive phrase in the description.
  • Do research to get a sense of a fair price for the breed you are considering. Think twice if someone advertises a purebred dog for free or at a deeply discounted price as it could be a fraudulent offer.
  • Pet buyers using a credit card need to monitor their credit card statements carefully in the event a scammer tries to use your information to fund their activities.
  • Check out a local animal shelter online for pets you can meet before adopting.