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Pet scams skyrocket amid soaring demand during pandemic

Last Updated Jan 15, 2021 at 4:58 pm EST

A combination of loneliness and extra time has many turning to the internet to find a new furry friend.

Since the pandemic began, the demand for puppies and kittens has skyrocketed and according to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), scammers are using this as an opportunity to separate you from your money.

“When we just compare 2019 to 2020, there was a 263 per cent increase in puppy scams”. Monica Braz from BBB tells CityNews.

The biggest increase in online shopping fraud right now is also pet scams. The BBB reports they have nearly tripled compared to previous years. The average money lost is $700, but for some it’s been thousands.

One family in the GTA lost more than $4,000 during their pet search Braz said.

“Our emotions are involved, and the scammers pull and draw people in in different ways. In the end they didn’t get a puppy,” she said.

How to avoid getting scammed

The best way to avoid falling victim to such a scam is to do your research, thoroughly. Braz highlights three red flags to watch for:


Braz says the price of puppies has skyrocketed in recent months. “If the price being offered is to good to be true it probably is,” she said.

Hidden/extra costs

If you are being scammed, the so-called seller might ask for extra money for things like vaccines, insurance, climate control crates and shipping. Braz also warns against wiring money through credit unions.

Seeing the pet

Braz suggests trying to have some sort of visual interaction with the animal.

“A legitimate seller would at least video call with you,” said Braz.

She also advises doing a reverse google search of the picture in the ad.

“If it’s coming up on other websites then you’ll know this is just a scam and they are posting images of the same pet over and over again,” she said.

Apart from buying pets, adoption is an option.  While you might not get a puppy or the exact breed you want, you could be giving a sweet senior dog a new leash on life.