Pet Scams


New BBB Study Finds Pet Scams Victimize Consumers Globally

Columbus (October 3, 2017) – October is Adopt-a-Shelter-Dog Month, encouraging consumers to adopt and not shop when it comes to welcoming a new furry friend into your home. According to recent findings from BBB, 80% of online sponsored advertisements about pets may be fake – making your local animal shelter a better choice for more than one reason.

Your BBB Serving Central Ohio has received recent complaints against companies that have not provided pets to consumers after payment. All of the companies listed below have an F rating with BBB and are using a Central Ohio address, but are not actually located in Central Ohio:

  • Classic Labrador
  • Fountain Chihuahua
  • Viva Maltese
  • Stephan Havanese Pups
  • Rickney Golden Retrievers
  • Robert Dachshund Pups
  • Top Side Golden Retriever Home

Nationally, BBB Scam Tracker has 907 reports of pet scams, with the Federal Trade Commission finding over 3,000 similar reports. BBB International Investigations Initiative conducted an online puppy scam study, looking at the scope of who is behind it, how large the problem is and the need for law enforcement and consumer education to help tackle the issue. You can read the full study here or download a PDF here.

Among the report’s key findings:

Most of the scams appear to originate in the West African country of Cameroon and use workers in the U.S. to pick up wire payments sent through Western Union or MoneyGram.

At least 80 percent of the sponsored advertising links in an internet search for pets may be fraudulent. In all, there may be hundreds or even thousands of fake websites offering pets for sale, with many of the active sites registered in just the past few months. Virtually all of the photos and much of the language used on the sites are copied from legitimate breeder sites, or simply fabricated.

The thieves require that correspondence be done by email, text messages or by phone. Any request to meet the seller or see the animal before payment is rebuffed.

The thieves will continue asking for additional payments until the prospective buyer refuses further requests.

While victims can be of any age, reports show that those most susceptible to the scheme are in their late teens or early 20s.

Better coordination by law enforcement and regulatory agencies, as well as increased consumer education, are key to reducing losses.

Doing an internet search of the advertised picture may help identify fraudulent offers.

The study also includes tips about avoiding puppy scams, such as:

Research the company at bbb.org to find out more information, complaints and customer reviews. A basic online search with the word “scam” could also uncover more information.

Always see your pet in person before paying any money. A reputable breeder should be willing to let you visit and see their business firsthand.

Do an internet search of the picture of the pet you are considering. If the same picture appears on multiple websites, you may be dealing with a fraud. You also can search for text from ads or testimonials to see if the seller copied it from another site.

Never pay a stranger with gift cards, or a money order or through Western Union or Moneygram.

Always use a credit card in case you need to dispute the charges.

Research prices for the breed you are interested in adopting. If someone is advertising a purebred dog for free or at a deeply discounted price, you could be dealing with a fraudulent offer.

The Humane Society of the United States refers consumers to local shelters. They also have tips for finding a reputable breeder.

What if you have been a victim of a puppy scam?

File a report with BBB’s Scam Tracker

Complain at Petscams.com

Complain to the Federal Trade Commission. Call 1-877-FTC-HELP

Homeland Security Investigations at the Department of Homeland Security also handles international fraud. Call 866-DHS-2-ICE (866-347-2423) (from U.S. and Canada)

If you sent money through Western Union, MoneyGram or a Green Dot MoneyPak, contact those companies directly for information about the transactions. They also download their complaints into the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel database, which police around the country can access.

Green Dot 800-795-7597

Western Union 1-800-448-1492

MoneyGram 1-800-926-9400

BBB Scam Spotlight: September 2017

Columbus, OH (October 4, 2017) – Each year, one in four North American households are scammed. Because money loss and identity theft can happen to anyone, BBB encourages community members to protect and inform others by reporting any scam-related experiences to BBB’s Scam Tracker.

In September, Central Ohio consumers reported losing a total of $6,844.00 to scams.

BBB analyzed 44 Scam Tracker reports from September 2017 to shed a spotlight on three scams affecting our Central Ohio community:

Facebook Messenger Scam: A Westerville, Ohio senior citizen reported a loss of $6,000 after receiving a Facebook message from a scammer who had hacked her next door neighbor’s account. The message said she had won a sweepstakes prize, but had to wire $1,000 in fees six different times to receive it. After wiring money from Walmart on six different days, she was then told that the FedEx truck with her winnings got into a wreck, and they would not be able to get into the box with her winnings unless she paid more money for a key.

She became suspicious that she was being scammed, but then received a text from someone named Nakia Jannette Sicard who claimed to be a grant writer for Facebook. Sicard said the consumer would get the prize money, 100% guaranteed, but later asked for $500. The consumer did not send any more money, and also never received the prize money.

How to spot this scam:

Be wary of your friends’ tastes online: Your friend or family member may have impeccable judgment in real-life. But online, email messages, social posts and Facebook Messenger chats could be from a hacked or impersonated account.

Trust your gut. If a close friend or family member sends you a message that seems suspicious, give them a call or ask them in person to confirm that it really came from them before responding or clicking on any links.

Report scam accounts and messages to Facebook: Alert Facebook to fake profiles, compromised accounts and spam messages by reporting them.

Ignore and block unsolicited messages concerning government grants. The United States Government will not contact you directly for loans, or require that you pay any sort of fee.

Advance Fee Inheritance Scam: A woman from Worthington, Ohio was contacted by someone claiming to represent the “Grace Davies Humanitarian Project”. The scammer claimed that a Ms. Davies wanted to give all of her money away before she passed, and she had been chosen to receive $8 million dollars. The scammer sent detailed emails calling the woman “my beloved”, and asking for fees to cover the “insurance premium on a Certificate of Deposit”. She paid $720 by Western Union, and never received any inheritance money.

BBB urges consumers to consider these types of fees a red flag – you should not have to pay money in order to receive money. Legitimate law firms, executors of wills and others who are distributing estate funds to rightful heirs normally will not request you pay any sort of fee to find out about your share or receive your share of an inheritance.

Protect yourself by speaking with your relatives about any recent familial deaths and by checking bbb.org to see if a Business Profile or Charity Review exists for the organization that is contacting you.

Phony Employment Offer Scam: A Whitehall, Ohio woman applied for a job online and received a check in the mail for $1,830.00. She was asked to deposit the check, and send back a portion of the money to the “employer”. The check was counterfeit, making her responsible for paying all of the money back to her bank.

Fake checks are often sent with names of real companies and are drawn from national, recognizable banks like Chase or Wells Fargo Bank. If you are dealing with someone who requires you to deposit money and wire back a portion, this is a red flag that you are being scammed.

Unexpected job opportunities on sites like Craigslist should be fully researched to verify that the position actually exists and the business is hiring. If a job posting is claiming to be from a reputable company, but the listing is not on their actual website, then it is a scam.

While applying for jobs, always protect personal information. Job seekers should never give their social security number until they have confirmed the legitimacy of the position. Additionally, job seekers should not supply bank account information for a direct deposit set-up until they have officially been hired.

Consumers are encouraged to report scams to BBB Scam Tracker to help protect others in the Central Ohio community.

The State of Small Business Cybersecurity in North America

BBB report shows half of all small businesses couldn’t stay profitable more than a month if they lost critical data

Columbus (October 12, 2017) – Small business owners know they are at risk for cyberattacks, but they are somewhat at a loss as to what to do. That’s one of the findings of a new report from BBB, The State of Small Business Cybersecurity in North America, released today as part of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. One of the more troubling findings is that half of small businesses reported they could remain profitable for only one month if they lost essential data.

“Profitability is the ultimate test of risk,” said Bill Fanelli, CISSP, chief security officer for the Council of Better Business Bureaus and one of the authors of the report. “It’s alarming to think that half of small businesses could be at that much risk just a short time after a cybersecurity incident.”

“Small business owners get it,” Fanelli continued. “When we asked them about the most common cybersecurity threats – ransomware, phishing, malware – they know what’s out there, and most of them have basic protections in place. For instance, 81% use antivirus software and 76% have firewalls. But one of the most cost-effective prevention tools, employee education, is used by fewer than half of the companies we surveyed. Other prevention measures scored even lower.”

BBB surveyed approximately 1,100 businesses in North America (71.4% of the sample came from the United States, 28.5% from Canada and 0.1% from Mexico). Two-thirds of the participants were BBB Accredited Businesses, and they apparently fared marginally better in most measures, such as awareness of specific threats and adoption of cybersecurity measures. The data was collected in an online survey with a margin of error of approximately +/- 3% for a 95% confidence interval.

The report focuses on cybersecurity effectiveness from three perspectives: a) cybersecurity standards/frameworks; b) best practices; and c) cost-benefit analysis. One of the key findings is that the NIST Cybersecurity Framework, technically a voluntary standard from the National Institute for Standards and Technology, is becoming mandatory in some markets. Not only are many companies requiring it of their vendors for procurement, but many businesses are adopting it because it helps them run a better business. The NIST framework is the basis for BBB’s training program, “5 Steps to Better Business Cybersecurity” (BBB.org/cybersecurity).

The State of Small Business Cybersecurity emphasizes the need not only for education and training, but for cost-benefit analysis of cybersecurity measures. The report suggests a formula created by two professors at the University of Maryland, Martin P. Loeb, PhD and Lawrence A. Gordon, PhD, to help small business owners estimate their risk from cybersecurity attacks and calculate an appropriate investment in prevention.

“It doesn’t do any good for a small business to adopt a $10,000 solution if the potential risk reduction is only worth $5,000,” said Fanelli. “We hope this report will give small business owners greater awareness of the real and the perceived risks of cyberattacks, as well as best practices for protecting against these types of security threats. We hope it serves as a step forward in advancing cybersecurity in the marketplace.”

ADDITIONAL QUOTATIONS

“We believe the report makes a real contribution to informing small businesses on steps they can take to improve their cybersecurity. We appreciate your references to our research. We are already thinking of ways to bring this report to the attention of the entire Smith School Community.”

Martin P. Loeb, PhD

Professor of accounting and Deloitte & Touche Faculty Fellow

Robert H. Smith School of Business

University of Maryland

Lawrence A. Gordon, PhD

Ernst & Young Alumni Professor of Managerial Accounting

Robert H. Smith School of Business

University of Maryland

“With its 2017 State of Cybersecurity Report BBB has once again proven its invaluable role in helping small businesses to better appreciate the complex cyber threat environment they’re facing, along with tracking the tools and frameworks that are available to help mitigate the risk. Cybersecurity due diligence is no longer just essential for multinational companies, law firms, and governments. The small businesses that are the backbone of this county are at the front lines, and have a vital role to play in helping to promote cyber peace.”

Scott J. Shackelford, JD, PhD

Associate Professor of Business Law and Ethics

Chair, IU-Bloomington Cybersecurity Program

Indiana University Kelley School of Business

“This study provides timely and fascinating insight into the cybersecurity risks faced by small business, as well as the steps they take to mitigate these risks. Both small business owners and cybersecurity policy practitioners may find the detailed information about cybersecurity practices of small businesses incredibly useful.”

Anne E. Boustead, JD PhD

Assistant Professor

School of Government and Public Policy

University of Arizona

For more information, follow your BBB on Facebook, Twitter, and at bbb.org.

About BBB

For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2016, people turned to BBB more than 167 million times for BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.2 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. There are local, independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico, including BBB Serving Central Ohio, which was founded in 1921 and serves 21 counties in Central Ohio.

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