Puppy scams up 280% amid COVID-19 pandemic compared to 2019

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people sought companionship during quarantine, which opened the floodgates for puppy-related scams.

Honest Paws, a company that creates CBD products for pets, found that between April and September, over 2,400 complaints were filed with the BBB in relation to puppy scams.

RELATED: How to protect yourself from COVID-19 scams

“That’s an increase of over 280% from the same time period in 2019, when only 627 complaints were filed,” according to Honest Paws. These types of scams are projected to increase a staggering 129% compared to last year overall, according to the Better Business Bureau.

And with the increased interest in finding a pet, scammers have taken advantage of social distancing protocols — often not allowing some buyers to see the animal before purchase.

FILE - Puppies play at interactive Pop-Up For Pups in New York City.

RELATED: Pet adoptions on the rise as Americans stay home due to coronavirus pandemic

“This has led to thousands of Americans paying to adopt a puppy sight unseen—often to the tune of thousands of dollars. Scammers have additionally conned their victims by demanding payment for climate-controlled crates for puppies needing to be shipped to their new home, fraudulent transportation services, and non-existent, corona-related vaccinations,“ according to Honest Paws.

Here is a list of the top 10 states with the most puppy scams between April and September and average money lost:

California: 353

Average money lost: $890

Texas: 187

Average money lost: $708

Florida: 152

Average money lost: $744

New York: 151

Average money lost: $923

Ohio: 103

Average money lost: $655

Georgia: 95

Average money lost: $581

New Jersey: 83

Average money lost: $781

Pennsylvania: 83

Average money lost: $900

North Carolina: 79

Average money lost: $791

Washington: 78

Average money lost: $639

Honest Paws discovered some common red flags after speaking to a few people who fell victim to puppy scams:

  • “The seller claims that due to social distancing regulations, you will not be able to see the animal in person before adoption and/or is unable to provide you with multiple pictures/videos of the puppy up for adoption.”
  • “When performing an internet search of a picture of the puppy you’re considering, you notice the same picture appears on multiple websites or in Facebook groups. You can use Google’s helpful ‘reverse image’ tool to find instances where the picture is being used elsewhere on the internet.”
  • “When performing an internet search for the text from ads or testimonials on a breeder’s website or ad, you notice they’ve been copied from other websites.”
  • “The breeder’s website offers no information about the sire or dam of the litter and/or is unable to provide proof of health records or AKC Certification.”
  • “The seller asks for payment up front through Western Union, MoneyGram, a digital money app like Zelle or CashApp, or via a gift card.”
  • “In the case of purebred breeds, the puppy in question is being offered at a significantly steep discount when compared with the average price for a puppy of its breed.”
  • “The seller or a third party asks for payment to cover additional items such as a climate-controlled crate for shipping, vaccinations, or transportation insurance/life insurance. In many cases, fraudulent emails will claim the shipping costs/crate rental feels will be refunded upon the puppy’s delivery. However, they never are.”
  • “The adoption contract contains multiple spelling or grammatical errors.”

“With puppy scams more rampant than ever, the best thing a person seeking a pet can do is turn to local animal shelters or rescue groups to find their new best friend. For those set on a purebred pet, it’s estimated that up to 30% of the animals in shelters or rescues are, in fact, purebred,” Honest Paws advised.