Pet scams increase during pandemic

Reporter: Erika Jackson Writer: Jackie Winchester
Published: Updated:

Whether you’re a cat person or a dog lover, spending more time at home is much better with a pet, but the Better Business Bureau is warning that some animal lovers are getting ripped off.

One of those was Pam Elcik of Fort Myers. She thought she found the perfect pets on Craigslist – two Havanese puppies.

“We visited shelters and just didn’t find really what we were looking for,” she said.

So when she found the puppies online, “My gosh, my heart just melted. They were so cute. These little fluffballs.”

Ted Tyrell of Punta Gorda is another. He found two ragdoll kittens on a breeder’s website and knew they would fit in perfectly with his family.

“We went to the pet store and bought kitten food and kitten toys,” he said.

Elcik spent $450 for the pups and Tyrell paid $950 for the kittens, both of them using a money transfer app. Then, the so-called breeders wanted more and more money, and they realized they’d been ripped off.

“It’s very easy for scammers to create fake websites, put up fake pictures of puppies, and look like a legitimate business,” said Bryan Oglesby, director of public relations with the Better Business Bureau.

The BBB said pet scams are skyrocketing during the pandemic, and they received more reports of fraudulent pet websites in April than the first three months of 2020 combined.

“Scammers are using COVID-19 as a tool to entice consumers to purchase these puppies online and not being able to meet with a consumer in person,” Oglebsy said.

The Bureau recommends you meet the pet in person before you hand over any money, and don’t send money through a wire transfer, gift card or money app.

Both victims said they hope their story can prevent other families from the same situation.

“There are a lot of scammers out there just out to make a quick buck,” Tyrell said.

“I was so embarrassed. We are smart people!” Elcik said.

Experts said all pet scam victims should report fraudulent websites to the BBB so that no one else falls victim.

WINK News reached out to both advertised breeders. One sent an automated reply and the phone number for the other is no longer in service.


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