If you have provided your card information in an online puppy scam, you should take some safety precautions.
In these stressful times, many people are turning to their pets for comfort. With a lot of other social interaction cut off in the pandemic, the companionship of a cute canine friend is drawing more interest. Unfortunately, scammers are also cashing in on this trend.
The Better Business Bureau has warned that online puppy scams have risen steeply in 2020. In these sorts of scams, the pet may not actually exist or it may be a bait-and-switch endeavor in which you get a puppy that is different from what was promised.
To add insult to injury, you might have compromised your credit card information in the process. What should you do if you have put your card information at risk?
Spike in online puppy scamsThe BBB reports that soon after the lockdowns began earlier in 2020, it saw a spike in reports of pet fraud, with about 4,000 such cases reported in the U.S. and Canada. (Although any pet could be used in such scams, puppies are the most popular bait.)
The trend is continuing going into holiday season, with the BBB receiving 337 complaints about puppy scams in November, compared to 77 such complaints for November 2019.
The median loss from such scams is $750, and half of the scam reports were from those in the 35 to 55 age group. If you are searching online for a puppy, it is extremely likely you will run into a fake listing or website.
According to Michelle L. Corey, president and CEO of BBB St. Louis, “COVID-19 has made for a long and uncertain year, and a ‘quarantine puppy’ or other pet has proved to be a comfort for many people, but it also has created fertile ground for fraudsters. People currently shopping for pets online are prime targets for fraudsters trolling the internet looking for want-to-be pet owners. Knowing the red flags associated with this scam can help consumers avoid heartache and losing their money.”
See related: Credit card scams in the time of coronavirus
How to avoid online puppy scams
The American Kennel Club advises that the modus operandi for these scams is usually for con artists to put up pictures of fake litters, or pose as existing breeders to fool buyers.
The AKC advises that consumers watch for the following red flags:
- A seller that avoids phone conversation and prefers email communication. This could indicate that they are outside the country and don’t want to reveal their phone number.
- You could get texts and photos of the puppy that crop up on multiple sites. Do a search on the text to see if you can find it on another site. You could also do a reverse image search for the puppy’s picture.
- If the price you are quoted sounds suspiciously low, that’s another red flag.
The BBB also advises that the scammer might ask you to pay for “reimbursable pet insurance” or for add-on items such as a “climate-controlled” crate. You could even be charged for the pet’s vaccination.
The Virginia attorney general has also sounded an alarm about these online puppy scams and advises to watch for “poorly constructed” websites that contain spelling and grammar mistakes.
To ensure that you will not be taken in by scams, look for sellers with adequate positive reviews. And ask to meet the seller in person or via video chat. Ask a multitude of questions about the dog and its parents. And be suspicious if it seems as if the seller is trying to rush you into a deal.
See related: 10 signs you’re talking to a scammer
Avoid compromising your card information
The BBB says most online puppy scammers cannot process credit cards. Even then, they could use fake online forms to get your credit card information.
Considering that the fake seller cannot process your card information, you could be informed that your card was declined. The sellers would then ask you send money through a different channel, but they have managed to get your card information in the process and can tap it to fund themselves.
If you have unwittingly been the victim of such a scam, you should do what you can to mitigate the damage. Experian advises that if your card information has been compromised you could take the following steps:
- Contact your card issuer and report the incident. The Fair Credit Billing Act limits your liability for fraudulent card charges to $50, and your card issuer could also have its own policies.
- Change your password and PIN information for the card.
- Keep an eye on your card activity and watch for any unauthorized transactions.
- You could put in a fraud alert with the credit bureaus.
- Get a copy of your credit report, which you will get when you put in a fraud alert.
- If you find any accounts or credit inquiries you don’t recognize on your credit report, let the creditors know you didn’t initiate them.
The FCC also advises that you could report any credit card scams to your local law enforcement authorities. Another recourse is to file an identity theft report with the Federal Trade Commission or a complaint with the FCC.
Most important, avoid falling for online puppy scams and compromising your card information in the first place!
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