Pet Safety & How to Avoid Online Pet Scams During COVID-19
Written by Richard Ginsburg Alert 360 CEO & President
At Alert 360, we are a big family of animal lovers. Many of our employees have beloved pets, and we encourage those pets at company events, such as our annual (pre-COVID-19) company picnic. Needless to say, pets have a special place in the heart of the Alert 360 home security team.
The security of our customers’ pets is just as important to us as the security of their families, homes and properties. In line with this, we strive to raise awareness about online scams that threaten your bank accounts, finances, or personal identity. Unfortunately, online scams involving pets have been on the rise during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Beware Online Pet Scams
As a leading home security company, we talk a lot at about the prolific problem of door-to-door security sales scams. (If you have been the victim of or approached by someone using fraudulent door-to-door home security scam) While home security sales scams are still an issue, lately another type of scam has popped up on our radar – online pet scams.
During the COVID-19 pandemic and related isolation, the demand for pet companionship has increased. Related to this, recent media reports have shared an increase in online pet scams. Because many pet stores and animal shelters are temporarily closed, consumers are turning to the internet and, sometimes, those results have been disappointing. The Wall Street Journal recently dubbed puppies “This Year’s Big Online Scam.”
Include Pet Safety in Home Security
It is unfortunate to read about consumers looking to get a pet, who then fall for one of these scams. These scams include pictures of puppies, offered on websites, that are not truly for sale. Many of these websites are professionally designed and have what look like actual consumer references.
Pet scammers have had a few years to perfect their illegal activity. A Better Business Bureau (BBB) study estimated that at least 80 percent of sponsored search links for pet sales may be fraudulent, advertising animals the supposed sellers don’t own. According to the BBB, these scams often increase during the holidays and have spiked during the coronavirus outbreak.
So, how do you avoid falling for one of these online puppy scams? The Federal Trade Commission, AARP, the BBB, and many Attorney Generals have posted red flags to look out for when buying a pet. They also offer helpful guidance when shopping online for a furry or feathered friend. Check out the above-mentioned organizations for more information and keep these tips in mind:
• Try to work with a local animal shelter or rescue league, which makes it easier to confirm references and possibly visit in person. Plus, you’ll be rescuing a pet in need of a second chance and a loving home.
• If it is too good to be true, it probably is. Do some research on the price of a pet in advance. If the price seems unusually low, buyer beware. That could be the sign of a scam.
• Do a Google search of the animal’s image. Check if you notice the same image on multiple sites, unrelated to the seller or varying in the information. The same image posted in various, unrelated sites is a huge red flag.
• Pay by credit card – always. If a seller insists on a wire transfer or even worse, a gift card, that is another red flag. Using your credit card will give you a fair amount of buyer protection from your credit card company.
• Beware if you ask to see the pet in person and the buyer gives reasons not to meet.
• Check references for the seller through your local Better Business Bureau.
Once you bring a new pet home, you’ll want to ensure you keep it safe and secure. The following are ways the Alert 360 home security team can help.
Use Security Cameras to Keep an Eye on Pets
Theft of pets and lost pets are two other issues that impact our furry friends. The same way you increase your home’s security by being aware and prepared, you can easily increase your pet’s security. Make sure your pets have tags that include your current contact information. Has your pet microchipped and registered? Keep a closer eye on your pet when it’s outside and ensure you have a secure, gated area for it. Many Alert 360 customers use outdoor security cameras to keep an eye on their yards. This makes it easier to see what’s happening, using our home security app, whether you are away or busy inside your home. Our security video cameras, with two-way communications, also allow you to speak to someone who approaches your yard or pets.
You also can set notifications to alert you if your pet accesses a sensitive or off-limits area while you’re away. This can help keep your pet and belongings safe.
Protect your Pets with Home Security Decals
Whether you have a new furry family member or a longtime family pet, remember, Alert 360 can help keep them safe at home. In addition to smoke detectors and security cameras, Alert 360 offers pet static clings to help save pets during an emergency. (Alert 360 customers can request decals here.) Simply place these “In Case of Fire” decals in your windows to alert emergency responders that you have pets in your home.
Free Home Security Evaluations Available
Alert 360 offers free home security evaluations to help identify ways to increase your home, family’s – and pet’s – security. A trained home security professional will perform a walk-thru inside and outside your home to check for vulnerable areas. From a basic home security system to a comprehensive system, including smart home automation, Alert 360 has the latest security devices. With offices coast-to-coast, chances are we’re in your neighborhood. Find a local Alert 360 home security team near you by visiting Alert360.com or our home security near me.