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BBB Scam Alert: Adopting a rescue dog? Watch out for phony fees

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning people about puppy scams that are targeting people who want to adopt a dog from a shelter or rescue, by impersonating real animal shelters or posing as people who want to rehome an animal.

Here's how the scam works, according to BBB:

"You are looking to adopt a dog, and you find an animal shelter or individual online wanting to rehome a puppy. You message them for more information and receive a convincing, heart-tugging backstory.... In this version of the puppy scam, the scammer may not charge for the dog. Instead, they ask for a refundable deposit to “hold” the pup or request payment to ship the pet to your home. Most scammers ask you to pay through a digital wallet (Zelle was mentioned in several reports) or use a pre-paid debit card or gift card. Although this scam mostly involves dogs, it can also include cats and other pets. After you pay, the problems start. One victim reported driving to the “shelter” to pick up their new dog, only to find no such address existed. “I called, and they texted me that they are coming down with the puppy. I asked them where and no answer. Finally, after 10 calls the phone was NOT accepting any calls!  By then it was quite clear I am not getting the puppy AND I'm out $300.” In other versions of the scam, the con artists offer to ship the dog. But first you need to pay up for emergency vet visits, additional shipping fees, or even a COVID-19 test. The scammers ask for more money to resolve the problem, often promising to refund it after the pet is delivered. They may even claim that the pet will be euthanized if you don’t pay up. Once they’ve gotten your money, scammers disappear. The dog never existed."

How can you avoid pet adoption scams? The BBB is recommending never buying or adopting a pet without seeing it in person first.

Also, search for an image of the pet on the internet. Once you have a photo of the pet, do a reverse Google Image search.

"If you find multiple pet adoption sites using the same picture, it’s probably a scam," BBB said in a news release.

Remember to never use money transfer apps to pay for a pet or anything else with people you do not personally know.

If you have experienced this scam or another, report it to BBB's Scam Tracker here.

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Alexis Berdine

Alexis Berdine is an Investigative Multi-Media Journalist at KVOA.

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