A new study from Honest Paws found that scams involving the sale of puppies have increased 280% during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Michigan residents are one of the most impacted.
The study revealed that victims of the scams in Michigan lost an average of $667, largely through transactions on CashApp, which is the 10th worst in the country.
The scams occurred during attempts to buy dogs online. Honest Paws spoke to three victims and reported the following red flags:
- Sellers claiming that due to social distancing restrictions, buyers are not allowed to see the dog in person before adoption or sellers claiming they are unable to provide multiple pictures or videos of the animal.
- Finding the same picture of the puppy on multiple websites or Facebook groups when using Google’s reverse image search feature.
- Discovering from internet searches that text from breeders’ websites and ads have been copied from other websites.
- Lack of information on the sire or dam of the litter and failure to provide proof of health records for the animals.
- Sellers requesting payment upfront through money transfer services like Western Union, MoneyGram and digital apps like CashApp and Zelle.
- Purebred puppies being offered at significantly lower prices than average for the breed.
- Sellers or third parties asking for additional payment to cover items such as climate-controlled crates for shipping, vaccinations or transportation insurance. Often, these costs are said to be refunded after delivery but never are.
- Adoption contracts containing multiple spelling or grammar errors.
Prospective puppy buyers in fellow Midwest states Ohio and Illinois lost similar amounts at $655 and $694, respectively. CashApp also was the most commonly used service for these transactions in Ohio, while the app Zelle was used in Illinois. Residents in New York, Pennsylvania and California lost the highest amounts, at $923, $900 and $890, respectively. All three states also used Zelle.