BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Many people wanted a furry companion to keep them company as cities and states went into lockdown, and went online to find a pet.
"Unfortunately, scammers knew that as well, and took advantage and put up fake websites. Took payments and then all of a sudden there is no dog," said Melanie McGovern, Communications Director at the Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York.
The Better Business Bureau said in upstate New York, people have lost between $600 and $2100 in pet scams.
They have almost 4,000 reports of fraudulent pet websites, with losses of $2 million and a projected $3 million by the end of the year.
So how do you avoid falling victim to such scams?
"The biggest tell-tale sign is if the puppies are available right now. A lot of reputable breeders have waitlists, they do background checks, they do interviews, there's a really big process to buy a dog normally," said McGovern. "So if they're telling you the puppy's available, they can have it to you in a week, that's a tell-tale sign that it might be fraudulent."
Other things to look out for are if the scammer is asking for any form of payment other than credit cards, like third party payment apps.
Or once you make the initial payment, they'll start asking for more, with excuses like a need for a special crate, insurance, or that the
Ask to do a Facetime to actually see the cat or dog, as most scammers use stock or stolen photos.
If you're given an address to pick up the animal, do a search on google maps.
"We've had cases for BBB where people have gone to addresses thinking they were going to pick up a puppy, and having homeowners say I don't know what you're talking about," said McGovern.
Most reputable breeders will give you their number, location and hours of operation.
Check places like the BBB Scam Tracker and PetScams.com to confirm a website's legitimacy.
An alternative option to buying a pet though, is adopting from a local shelter.
"These dogs here were once puppies, and unfortunately they found themselves unwanted and at an animal shelter," said Kimberly LaRussa, Communications Director at the Niagara County SPCA. "And you know they need a home too, so when you adopt a pet you're giving an animal a second chance at happiness."