Officials caution consumers to be wary of online puppy mill scams

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There are plenty of reputable breeders out there, but for every AKC-certified seller of puppies and dogs, there are also puppy-mill scammers. This week, the Better Business Bureau released a report about the increasing prevalence of the problem.

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“Fraud in the sale of online pets is on the rise, with scammers victimizing American consumers at an alarming rate,” states the report. “In recent years, Americans have filed tens of thousands of complaints with law enforcement, consumer organizations and online websites. And while the ages of the victims run the gamut, from the very young to senior citizens, studies have shown that an unusually high number of those targeted in the schemes are in their late teens or 20s.”

The report continues: “The scheme is usually dependent on bogus, often sophisticated, advertisements to hook unsuspecting consumers. Incredibly, experts believe at least 80% of the sponsored advertising links that appear in an internet search for pets may be fraudulent. In fact, it can be difficult to navigate an online search for a pet without coming across a bogus website.”

According to The Washington Post, while the bureau’s ScamTracker website received more than 1,000 complaints about “faux puppy enterprises,” a 2015 Federal Trade Commission internal report that found that a majority of 37,000 pet-related complaints involved fraudulent sales.

“I knew this was a problem, but it’s worse than I thought,” said Steve Baker, a Better Business Bureau international investigations specialist who wrote the report. “This has just saturated the Internet.”

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Experts pinpoint the problem because of two factors: an increasing pet population and the increase of online shopping.

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