British Columbia

Most online puppy ads are fake, Better Business Bureau warns

If you're looking to buy a pet, experts warn against buying online. The Better Business Bureau's International Investigations Initiative took on the growing trend of online puppy scams. Its investigation shows 80 per cent of sponsored advertisements about puppies may be fake.

80 per cent of sponsored ads for dogs are from fraudsters, bureau says

Around 80 per cent of online postings advertising puppies for sale are fake, according to the Better Business Bureau. (Shutterstock)

A new study says the majority of sponsored online postings advertising puppies for sale aren't real, leading unsuspecting buyers to fork out hundreds for pets that likely don't exist.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) report issued a warning to buyers on Thursday, saying up to 80 per cent of such sites could be fraudulent.

"In fact, it can be difficult to navigate an online search for a pet without coming across a bogus website," said a statement published this week.

The bureau said buyers find the fake sites through an online search. Fraudsters tell the buyers that the animal needs to be shipped, asking for money to be sent to a third party that will deliver the pet.

Buyers can fork out money for shipping, crates, insurance, shots and food — all for an animal that never comes.

Experts say buyers should meet the puppy in person before wiring any money. (CBC)

"Simply put, many of the pets marketed online do not exist – at least not as advertised. In virtually all cases, the scammers never own the animals described on the sites," said the bureau's statement.

"Eventually, most victims realize that something is wrong, and begin researching the internet for stories and alerts on pet frauds before ultimately realizing they have been duped."

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre had a record-breaking 377 complaints involving animals last year, with losses totalling $222,000, the report said.

The Better Business Bureau's B.C. branch said it received more than a dozen complaints in the province last year, but that that number is likely higher, according to the statement.

To avoid being scammed, buyers should be wary of buying online and ensure they meet the puppy — and seller — in person before they pay. A quick search of the image also helps, as scammers often use stock photos to dupe victims.

With files from Megan Batchelor and Rhianna Schmunk