WEST MICHIGAN. — The BBB says in it's annual risk report that online shopping scams were the most common reports they received in 2020, with an emphasis on those targeting people looking to buy pets and COVID-related PPE on the internet.
Their annual Scam Tracker Risk Report tracks reports of scams throughout the United States.
The BBB says scams involving pets were far and above the most commonly reported scam in 2020.
"They were among the most common, had the highest dollar amount, and the most likely to work,” said Troy Baker, educational foundation director for the BBB Serving West Michigan.
“And that's due in large part, we think, to the pandemic.”
In 2020, they say there was a 24.9% increase overall in the number of scam reports they received. 46,575 reports were submitted in 2020, up from 37,283 in 2019.
46.7% of the reports they received in 2020 involved people actually losing money to the scammers, compared to just 35.1% of cases the year prior.
Perhaps surprisingly the amount of money that people reported losing to scammers was down in 2020. The median amount lost in 2019 was $160, going down to $115 in 2020.
The BBB warned people throughout the pandemic about the uptick in pet scams they were seeing.
“We talked to people who are more upset about not getting the dog or the cat that they go for, than they are the money that they lost,” Baker told FOX 17 Monday.
People like Amy Richards of Kalamazoo end up getting emotionally invested in the animal they're trying to add to their family.
“Every time I had a question about why something was being done a certain way, he had an answer,” Richards told FOX 17.
Last year she and her family wanted to find another French Bulldog, already having one at home.
She hopped online and started browsing websites with pet postings.
“Found an ad there that was was right here in Kalamazoo, reached out via text message,” Richards said.
A few days went by without a response.
“I kind of just sort of forgotten about it, and received a message that that person no longer had puppies, but that their son-in-law had 2 puppies available, and they provided me with an email,” she said.
That started a process of going back and forth with the man about the dog in question, eventually telling her the dog had begun the process of being shipped to her home in Kalamazoo.
"After I had sent the initial funds for the dog, for the cost of the dog and to ship the dog, he was very, again, articulate... he was texting me, keeping communication going on a very regular basis," Richards said.
At one point she was told the shipping company involved had made a mistake, and the alleged scammer even sent her some money over Venmo.
”The guy had sent me some live videos of the dog, some photos, and, I mean, I was starting to get a little attached at the thought that, you know, that this was actually happening.”
But, sadly, the dog never arrived. She contacted the shipping company that was listed on some documents the man had sent her, and was able to figure out the whole thing was a scam.
Richards is far from alone in finding herself out of money, and a pet, after being the victim of an online scam.
“The scam preys on you pushing that voice in the back of your head back and saying, no, it's good, I'm getting my puppy. If you don't think something's right, you really need to start listening to that voice," Baker said.
You can read the BBB's full 2020 Scam Tracker Risk Report HERE.