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Pet Scams Spike During Coronavirus Pandemic

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) - With so many people staying at home, it seems like the perfect time to adopt a pet.

But animals advertised online may not be what they seem.

Pet scams have exploded during the pandemic, according to the Better Business Bureau.

Hailee Hunn, of Grapevine, lost $700 to a pet scammer.

"We thought it would be really nice to get our active cat a buddy so he has someone to play with," Hunn said. "Over quarantine we thought it was the perfect time."

Hunn found a cat online, then exchanged numerous emails with who she thought was the breeder.

That's when she noticed the first red flag.

"I'm an English teacher, so I'm noticing all these things. I was like, 'This is a lot of grammatical errors. It doesn't seem very professsional,'" Hunn said.

Kitten images from pet scam story
(CBS 11)

Still, Hunn paid $700 for the kitten to be shipped to her home.

But when she was asked to pay another $1,000 for an air-conditioned shipping crate, Hunn knew she had been duped.

"I was more sad about not having that cross-eyed cat," Hunn said. "I thought he was so cute, I was more disappointed by that than anything."

The Better Business Bureau of North Central Texas has received approximately 40 complaints about pet scams over the past few weeks, while nationwide, scam reports have topped 500, according to Phylissia Clark, the vice president of public relations and communications.

Clark said crooks are capitalizing on COVID-19 by posing as breeders and even shelters.

She said consumers should always meet a pet in person before making a payment.

"The thing that's different now is that because of COVID-19, people are more willing to buy this pet sight unseen," Clark said.

For Hunn, losing the money was hard. But losing the cat she wanted was harder.

"It's really disappointing there are people in the world who want to exploit people's desires to give an animal a home," Hunn said.

Clark said 80% of online pet ads are fake.

To avoid pet scams, the BBB recommends:

-Never wire money or send gift cards to a stranger

-Visit a pet in person before agreeing to buy anything

-Check whether a pet's picture has been used on multiple websites. It could be a stock photo.

-Research the average prices of your chosen breed. If someone is offering a significantly lower price for a certain breed, it could be a trap. Beware of extra charges for special shipping or "COVID-19" vaccinations

-Consider adopting an animal from the local animal shelter

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