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National Puppy Day helps raise awareness of puppy scams

March 23 is National Puppy Day, a paw-some day for dog enthusiasts to celebrate the unconditional love and undeniable cuteness of a puppy.

National Puppy Day also is designed to raise awareness about puppy mills and to help prospective pet owners consider adoption. We want you to enjoy the endless stream of adorable puppy photos, but keep in mind that while you’re looking for a pet to add to your family, you should also be on the lookout for scams, according to the Better Business Bureau of Upstate SC.

As more consumers turn to the internet to find new pets, more scams are popping up online. Experts say that a shocking 80% of sponsored advertisements about pets may be fake.

BBB ScamTracker has 907 reports on this type of fraud and a Federal Trade Commission report found some 37,000 complaints involving pets. The majority of those were believed to be puppy sale scams. When you consider that the Federal Trade Commission finds that less than 10 percent of victims of fraud actually complain, you can see that the problem is even larger than the numbers indicate.

The BBB International Investigations Initiative conducted an extensive study of online puppy scams. The study looks at the scope of this problem, who is behind it, and the need for law enforcement consumer education to address the issue. You can read the full study here.

Here are some tips for avoiding puppy scams:

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  • Don’t buy a pet without seeing it in person. Do an internet search of the picture of the pet you are considering. If the same picture appears on multiple websites, you may be dealing with a fraud. You also can search for text from ads or testimonials to see if the seller copied it from another site.
  • Never pay a stranger with a money order or through Western Union or MoneyGram
  • Always use a credit card in case you need to dispute the charges.
  • Research prices for the breed you are interested in adopting. If someone is advertising a purebred dog for free or at a deeply discounted price, you could be dealing with a fraudulent offer.
  • Adopt a pet from a local shelter such as the Greenville Humane Society, Spartanburg Humane Society, Laurens County Humane Society and the Pickens County Humane Society
  • Read up on finding a reputable breeder.
  • Learn about fraud in your area at BBB Scam Tracker.

What if you have been a victim of a puppy scam?

  • File a report with BBB’s Scam Tracker.
  • File a complaint at Petscams.com.
  • File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP.
  • Homeland Security Investigations at the Department of Homeland Security also handles international fraud. Call 866-DHS-2-ICE (866-347-2423) (from U.S. and Canada).
  • If you sent money through Western Union, MoneyGram or a Green Dot MoneyPak, contact those companies directly for information about the transactions. They also download their complaints into the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel database, which police around the country can access: Green Dot 800-795-7597; Western Union 1-800-448-1492; MoneyGram 1-800-926-9400.

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