BBB warns of online shopping and puppy scams

With Christmas and the holiday season approaching, various types of online scammers are doing all they can to rob consumers of their money.

Scammers can turn almost anything online, reports the Better Business Bureau: Puppies. Beauty products. “Men’s health” items like erectile dysfunction drugs.

The BBB regional offices recently issued a series of warnings regarding the problem. BBB Springfield director Stephanie Garland said the nonprofit watchdog group sees online shopping scams as misfortunes that flare up during the holidays but continue throughout the year.

Since January 2021, BBB has conducted three separate consumer surveys to learn more about U.S. shoppers and their online behavior, Garland said. What the nonprofit watchdog group found is that most consumers prefer to buy locally, but the majority of them also shop online for convenience, in part because of the terms of the store. pandemic era, but mostly because they want to save precious minutes better spent with loved ones.

In line with this consumer expectation, a BBB poll reported that 80 percent of consumers said it was important for retailers and other businesses to have websites.

BBB Cites These New Scam Tactics

But websites and related social media platforms are also avenues used by scammers to take advantage of people. And they’re constantly changing their tactics, BBB says.

Over the past 12 months, scammers have gone beyond their traditional bailiwick hawking “free trial offers” for products like moisturizers or generic Viagra, BBB scam tracker data exposure.

The “free trial offers” that turn into shock headaches have evolved to include CBD products and other personal care items. Likewise, scams related to online shopping in general are becoming more prevalent, BBB said.

Garland, of the BBB Springfield office, told the News-Leader that during 2021, “we’ve seen crooks posing as a plethora of fake goods, including fake waterpark pools, fake diamond rings , fake “Predator” helmets, fake Halloween decorations … What the data from Scam Tracker shows us is that scammers are aware of changing consumer buying habits and are ‘unfortunately adapt over time. “

Fake “Predator” helmets? Yes. BBB recorded a scam report in 2021 involving a Shell Knob man who lost $ 39 on a quest to purchase a collector’s helmet inspired by the popular sci-fi movie franchise.

The Springfield Regional Office of the Better Business Bureau said a Shell Knob man recently said he was scammed for $ 39 in an attempt to buy a helmet like the ones in the "Predator" movies.  Online shopping scams continue to be prevalent as many consumers shop online due to social distancing and convenience factors associated with the pandemic.

Springfield’s puppy troubles started with Facebook

But not all scams are that weird. In particular, online puppy scammers are hitting before and after Christmas and other year-end festivities, BBB has found. Garland said he has been following recent reports of pet scams and other online shopping issues from Springfield and many neighboring towns of Ozarks: Bolivar, Branson, Camdenton, Comet, Laurie, Kissee Mills, Leawood , Lebanon, Marshfield, Morrisville, Mountain Grove, Nixa, Republic, Seymour and Shell Knob.

These various counterfeit scams are a global nuisance: BBB has found that large increases in pet scam complaints have been recorded in the UK and Australia over the past two years. Most pet scams originate from the African Republic of Cameroon; many other online shopping scams are linked to China, made possible by “lax social commerce shopping platforms”.

Tammy Coryell is a typical example of someone being the victim of pet scammers in Missouri, Garland said.

Coryell, who lives in Springfield, told the News-Leader that in January of this year she was looking for a golden retriever puppy.

“I just really wanted a golden because I wanted a dog that just had a really sweet nature, that would be good with my grandchildren,” she said in an interview shortly before Christmas.

Coryell said she has many grandchildren: four under the age of 5, with another on the way in February.

So she took to Facebook and looked for golden retrievers in the Springfield area. Her intentions were conscious, she said: “I was trying, you know, not to end up with a puppy mill dog… I didn’t want to buy from a puppy mill.”

Coryell found a site that referred to the Missouri Golden Retrievers, and she quickly started sending private messages to someone claiming to be a Lebanon-based dog breeder. Looking back, she said, there were a lot of red flags. “I realized, re-reading (the thread), that the person didn’t tell me where they were until they asked me where I was. And when I said ‘ Springfield ‘, so she came back with’ oh great, but we’re in Lebanon. ‘”

As communication with “the breeder” continued, Coryell said the private messages he sent to Facebook exhibited faulty grammar and appeared to be becoming less consistent. She suspected that the person was not a native English speaker.

The self-proclaimed dog breeder from Lebanon demanded a deposit of $ 500, citing the total price of a golden retriever puppy at $ 800. Coryell later learned that the going price for a purebred Golden Retriever puppy is at least $ 1,000 and often $ 1,200 or more. She also says that a little online sleuth indicated that the so-called rancher may have been a Utah-based con artist.

“I was supposed to have the dog the next day,” Coryell said, but “the breeder” did not show up at the appointed time, instead offering an apology story involving a “COVID catch”, a shutdown at the local ASPCA office and a request for $ 1,000 in cash. When Coryell questioned “the breeder” and offered to come to the ASPCA office to meet him, the story changed: “Finally, he said, I’m in Amarillo, Texas … I went to texas for vacation, and i’m on my way home. “

Coryell admitted that the situation went from red flags to total fiasco pretty quickly, and she realized she was a victim because the scenario was so absurd: “Who brings a new puppy to Texas on vacation? ? “

Coryell had paid the $ 500 deposit through his Venmo app, but learned that Venmo and the bank hosting his Venmo-linked account would not be able to help him get his money back.

She later bought a golden retriever through a reputable dog breeder based in West Plains. She has screened the breeder in part with a simple FaceTime call and advises others to check breeder credentials and consider checking with vets for breeder’s suggestions.

Now, says Coryell, she doesn’t want anyone else to experience a similar incident. Losing $ 500 hasn’t been financially devastating for her, she said, but she knows it could be disastrous for many families.

Garland, the BBB’s regional director, said people search for new pets online in part because many workers do their jobs from home or with a hybrid home-office work schedule.

“At the current rate, pet scams reported to the BBB will be nearly five times as numerous as in 2017,” Garland said.

Fake puppies? How to avoid online shopping scammers

The BBB’s recommendations for avoiding pet scams and online shopping fraud make good sense:

  • Use to check a company’s rating and accreditation status, as well as, a site that records how long other websites have been running. Older sites are better. Scammers often re-create fraudulent websites under new brand names on a regular basis, reports the BBB.
  • Verify contact information, including the physical address of a business. Be careful if the site does not have a US or Canadian phone number, or uses a Gmail or Yahoo for business email address.
  • Look online for the supplier’s name and the word “scam,” which can alert you to red flags about a business.
  • Review online business reviews. Keep in mind that some scammers post fake positive reviews on their own sites. Look at the bad reviews first; they are more likely to be real.
  • Pay by credit card or a third-party payment service like PayPal.
  • If you are purchasing pets, consider adopting a pet from a shelter or working with a rescue organization.
  • See the animal in person before paying any money, or consider a video call with the seller. Scammers are unlikely to comply with either of these requests.
  • Look for market prices for the purebred dog you are looking for. Discount dog offers are likely to be fraudulent.
  • Using a service like Google Images, perform a reverse image search among the photos of puppies offered by the seller. Scammers frequently steal photos from other websites. The dog they are “selling” may not exist.

How to report a suspected scam

To report fraud, follow these steps:

Contact News-Leader reporter Gregory Holman by sending an email to [email protected] Please consider subscribing to support vital local journalism.

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