BBB warns of puppy scam

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) -- The BBB is warning consumers of a new scam targeting potential puppy buyers.

Phony ads and websites are used to scam thousands of U.S. consumer who are in the market of buying a puppy and other pets, according to a report just released by the Better Business Bureau.

The study estimates that tens of thousands of consumers have lost anywhere from $100 to thousands of dollars each to thieves. It ads that the scams are so widespread that anyone searching for a pet online is likely to encounter this fraud. The report recommends coordinated and aggressive law enforcement and increased consumer education to combat the problem.

While most victims are hooked into the scam by photos of cute puppies, other consumers believed they were paying for kittens, parrots and other animals to be delivered to their homes.

The study says that thieves impersonating pet sellers told potential buyers to make upfront payments for shipping and other fees. In most cases, buyers never receive the pets and lose their money.

One consumer from northern Illinois says he was almost duped out of $650 for a puppy his daughter saw online. After doing intensive research, he saw the exact same picture of the puppy on a Pinterest page from 2008.

BBB says at least 80 percent of the sponsored advertising links in an internet search for pets may be fraudulent.