OTTAWA—The Better Business Bureau says puppy scams are a growing problem across the country as fraudsters look to take advantage of lonely pet lovers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The bureau says Canadians have lost about $300,000 so far this year after falling prey to fake breeders, compared to about $150,000 during all of 2019.
The non-profit organization and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre have received 364 pet-scam complaints combined, with more than 250 of those reporting money lost, and August as the worst month since the outbreak.
Bureau spokeswoman Jessie St-Cyr says red flags include low prices—under $1,000 for a purebred—pressure to complete the purchase quickly, and unsecured payment methods such as Bitcoin, gift cards, or Western Union.
She says buyers can fend off fraudsters by asking for several references—including the vaccinating veterinarian—checking the creation date of the website of the breeder and transport company, and holding off on payment until having seen the dog in person or by virtual meeting.
St-Cyr says scammers often cite the COVID-19 virus as a reason to avoid in-person meetings and are trying to exploit people who are seeking companionship amid the isolation of the pandemic.