LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Finding a four-legged friend is supposed to be a fun time. However, there are people out there scamming hopeful pet owners and leaving them empty handed.
Imagine you're searching for a pet online-- you start talking with the supposed seller and inevitably a payment is needed right away.
From there, hundreds or even thousands of dollars are paid, but you never get a pet.
This is extremely common, but there are ways to avoid being scammed.
"Pet related scams on social media are incredibly prolific. They're everywhere.” Betsy Robb with the Little Rock Animal Village said.
Not only are these scams everywhere, but thousands of people continue to fall for them. Janet Robb, President, and CEO of the Better Business Bureau, said that scammers rely on people's vulnerability and get them to fork up tons of money.
"These individuals sometimes end up losing $3,000 to $4,000. There is no puppy, there is no dog, and then by the time they contact us, we can't help them. The money's gone, you're not going to get the money back," Janet Robb said.
Janet has dealt with hundreds of Arkansans who are on the tail end of these claims and it can be a very expensive lesson to learn.
She emphasizes though, there are ways protect yourself. She said watch out for the warning signs, specifically if you're looking to buy online.
Some warning signs:
- Professional or seemingly stock style photographs.
- The website lists that they have 10-15 pure breed animals.
"Highly unusual. Legitimate breeders typically will only have one or two breeds that may be closely related. There is no Walmart of purebred puppies," Janet said.
The most telling is when they want money up front and don't let you see the animal.
"It's so frustrating because these scammers are relying on people being in a vulnerable emotional state and to make a victim out of someone like that is pretty despicable," Betsy said.
She hears about pet scams all the time and said there's more to look out for.
"Lost pet scams. If you post about a lost pet on social media and include your phone number, you can almost guarantee that within a few hours you're going to get a text message from someone saying that they have your pet," she said.
This is something that she's familiar with as Betsy experienced baiting a scammer herself.
"They wanted me to give them the code that was sent to my phone and I refused to do it,” Betsy said. “I asked them for a picture of my pet, I asked them for where they are and they wouldn't provide any of that because they didn't have them. The dog is also not missing."
Janet wants prospective pet owners to use the Better Business Bureau (B.B.B) as a resource before you shop not after you're scammed.
"It's hard to shut the scams down because you don't know where they're coming from,” Janet said. “So, let's cut off the source of the food supply. Stop it up front, don't fall for it. If you're in doubt, please let us help you."