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Hannah Stiff

Stiff

Nothing compares to the joy of coming home to a loyal companion. Pets can decrease stress, improve heart health, and even help children with their emotional and social skills. But if you are turning to the internet to find your new family friend you may be at risk of being scammed. Experts say a shocking 80% of sponsored advertisements about pets may be fake.

The Better Business Bureau found when it comes to online purchases, buying a pet over the internet was the top way to be scammed in 2018. BBB had nearly 1,000 puppy scams reported to our Scam Tracker, with victims losing up to $1,000. One Montana resident lost $800 last month on a kitten scam. In a claim filed on our Scam Tracker tool at bbb.org, the victim said they pre-paid for the cuddly kitty via Apple Pay. Once the money was paid out, the kitten never materialized, and the victim could not reach the “seller.”

People are lured into these situations through fake websites or sponsored ads that appear when they are searching online for a specific animal breed. With pictures that make you fall in love, people are quickly hooked on the idea of a purebred animal for a fraction of the normal price.

Once a buyer shows interest, they are asked to make an immediate deposit to reserve the animal. The deposit is usually hundreds of dollars. But the scam doesn’t stop there. The fake breeders often say they are located in other states and must fly the pet to you. And that’s when they’ll ask for more money – travel costs, insurance fees, special crates, etc. The requests for money keep coming, until you eventually realize there is no pet.

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So, how do you find that furry friend online safely? One of the best tips is to find your pet locally if possible. Find reputable breeders in Montana and verify purebred information on a legitimate website (like the AKC for dogs).

Another great avenue to find a pet is to check out the humane society and local shelters, which have lots of cats and dogs looking for a forever home. If you are searching for a specific breed, the humane society also offers tips for picking a breeder.

If you do decide to go through an out-of-town breeder, do your homework. Run a google image search to make sure the same animal photos aren’t being used on other websites. Facetime with the owners and the pets they are claiming to sell.

If you have already lost money trying to get a new pet, go to bbb.org for a list of things you can do to report your experience and try to recoup your money.

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