Deep Bench: Fake pet sellers are out to get your money

(WZAW) -- If you are looking for a pet to add to your family, be on the lookout for scams. As more consumers turn to the internet to find new pets, more people are becoming victims of scams.

Experts say a shocking 80% of sponsored advertisements about pets may be fake.

BBB ScamTracker has 907 reports on this type of fraud and a Federal Trade Commission report found some 37,000 complaints involving pets. A vast majority of those were believed to be puppy sale scams.

The BBB has seen a rise in this type of scam in recent weeks, with several consumers reporting similar experiences. They'll find an adorable pet for sale online and wire money to the seller. Instead of shipping the pet to them, the BBB says the seller pockets the cash and is never heard from again.

"If you see an ad or a seller responds to you saying they're offering a free puppy or a puppy for a too good to be true price, don't believe them no matter what the story is, because that really is a red flag that you're dealing with a scammer," said Susan Bach, Northeast Wisconsin regional director for the BBB.

Bach said typically, consumers can lose between $100 and $1,000 through pet scams.

Here are some other tips offered by the BBB to avoid being scammed by a fraudulent pet seller:

• Don’t buy a pet without seeing it in person. 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 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.

If you do come across a scam, you can report it on the BBB Scam Tracker. The BBB will look into it and other consumers can find those reported scams to be able to avoid them as well.