Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) is warning consumers nationwide about a significant uptick in fraudulent pet breeder/seller websites falsely claiming addresses in the Twin Cities area. Three recent cases where consumers thought they were dealing with legitimate kennels led to individuals being swindled out of hundreds of dollars and left without the pet they thought they were adopting. BBB reminds the public that it’s very easy to create authentic-looking websites and scammers are good at telling people what they want to hear.
“Preparing to buy a pet for yourself or your family can be a very exciting time,” said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. “It can also be expensive, so scammers know they can get people’s attention by claiming to offer pets for free or at a large discount. Unfortunately, these ‘offers’ are just hooks to try to reel in more victims.”
BBB has uncovered three bogus entities involved in the recent cases of fraud: Fenando Pomeranians, Happy Husky and Maliz French Bulldogs – also doing business as Manuh French Bulldogs. All three entities have authentic-looking websites and claim to be located in the Twin Cities. However, though they have local phone numbers, BBB has determined none of them are legitimate and any pets featured on their websites are likely cribbed from the websites of real kennels.
Pet scams begin when fraudsters – posing as a legitimate kennel or breeder – create a fake website or place an ad offering free or inexpensive puppies. They usually communicate solely through email. Consumers are often taken in by the sincerity of the scammers. The con artists may say that they don’t care about money and just want to find a good home for their beloved puppies. Generally, as the scheme unfolds, scammers collect payment from hopeful consumers via wire transfer. In cases where puppies are advertised as free, scammers will usually ask for fees to cover last-minute transport or airport fees. Sadly, people who fall into any of these schemes wind up without a pet and out any money they paid or wired away.
“These scammers are greedy,” added Badgerow. “After collecting payment they will often ask for more funds, citing unexpected factors or costs. They are remorseless and devious.”
BBB offers this advice when considering the purchase of a pet:
· Don’t be fooled by a slick website. Scammers can easily create professional-looking websites which lure you in with copied pictures of adorable puppies from legitimate sites.
· Do your research at bbb.org . Ask the breeder for references.
· Visit the breeder. It is essential to visit the breeder at their home to see the entire litter, the care and conditions provided to the puppies prior to making your purchase.
· Watch out for breeders who seem overly concerned with getting paid. Any reputable breeder will be far more concerned with the appropriateness of the potential pet home than how soon they will get paid. Make sure you have clear expectations — ideally in writing — of how and when payment will be made.
· Be especially wary of any breeder who demands that you wire money or insists you can only pay with a prepaid credit card.
- Beware of ads with multiple misspellings and grammatical errors; many pet scams originate from overseas, particularly Africa, so scammers usually do not have a good grasp of the English language.
- If purchasing a pedigreed pet, be sure the breeder provides documentation of the parents’ registration with the American Kennel Club. This ensures that the pet is in fact a legitimate purebred animal. It is then your responsibility to register your pet with the American Kennel Club.
· Report a scam. Anyone who has experienced a dog-related scam should report it to their local authorities, as well as your BBB.
The mission of the Better Business Bureau is to be the leader in building marketplace trust by promoting, through self-regulation, the highest standards of business ethics and conduct, and to instill confidence in responsible businesses through programs of education and action that inform, assist and protect the general public. We are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Contact the BBB at bbb.org or 651-699-1111, toll-free at 1-800-646-6222.
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