In pandemic isolation, families and individuals are seeking to adopt pets. Many are perusing the internet for opportunities. However, in some cases, as people pursue these opportunities, they’re getting ripped off.

By the close of 2020, the Better Business Bureau anticipates that pet scams across North America will exceed 4,300 cases. All in all, the scams will collectively cost consumers over $3 million. This represents more than a 400% increase in these types of scams as compared to 2019.

“These sellers will go to appalling lengths to turn a profit, including blinding the public with cute images, fake information and too good to be true prices,” says Paula Boyden, Dogs Trust Veterinary Director and chair of the Pet Advertising Advisory Group (PAAG).

Who’s in the dog house?

In Western Pennsylvania, at least four individuals lost thousands of dollars due dog scams. “Unfortunately, we had one victim who lost more than $9,000” reported Scott Brady, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania. The victim was informed that payment would cover shipping expenses, insurance and coronavirus testing for the pooch. In this case, a 27 year-old man is facing federal charges.

Says one victim “I don’t know really how people can do stuff like that. I just don’t see it, how people can be that heartless.”

Here’s how to avoid internet puppy scams

  1. Before agreeing on a price, research the average cost for the specific breed that you’re interested in.
  2. Ensure that payments are not made with gift cards, cash apps, money wire transfer or other methods of payment that do not offer fraud protection.
  3. If possible (and this may be a challenge at the moment), visit a local rescue, shelter or breeder to pick up a pooch.
  4. Make sure that you have reviewed all vital paperwork, including a puppy contract, which can provide information about the pet’s parents, breed, health, diet and more.
  5. Visit the puppy in-person ahead of purchasing.
  6. If you feel as though you might have walked into a scam, walk away and report the seller.

Cute canines, kittens, parrots and horses

Fraudsters aren’t just fooling people with puppy scams. They’re capitalizing on a variety of different lures. Reports of scams centering around kittens, parrots and full-sized horses have emerged. One person lost more than £14,000 after stumbling on a scam for three African Grey parrots.


In a spin on the concept of ‘phishing’, canine-related scams are occasionally referred to as ‘dogfishing’ attempts.

For more on internet puppy scams, visit WPXI News.