BBB December Scams

COVID-19 Vaccine Scams Predicted to Rise

With the US approving a COVID-19 vaccine, government officials expect scams to emerge as distribution begins. Watch out for everything from phony treatments to phishing messages.

Here’s how the COVID Vaccine scam works:

Selling fake vaccines and other treatments is likely only one of many ways scammers will try to cash in on the vaccine release. Watch out for phishing messages attempting to trick you into sharing your passwords and personal information. Con artists have already impersonated the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization in phishing emails that claim to have news about the disease. We’ve also seen an increase in scams using robocalls to impersonate government officials.

How to avoid falling victim:

Check with your doctor:If you want a vaccine early, reach out to your healthcare provider about your options. If you don't have a primary care physician, check out the official website of your local health department for more information

Research carefully: Scammers are very creative, so be skeptical of anything that seems too good – or crazy – to be true. Double check any information about the vaccine with official news sources. And be aware that none of the vaccines can be currently purchased online or in stores.

Ignore calls for immediate action. While you may want to be first in line for the vaccine, don’t let that sense of urgency cloud your judgment. Scammers try to get you to act before you think.

Always double check the URL. Scammers like to buy official-looking URLs. Be careful that the link is really what it pretends to be. If the message looks like it’s coming from the local government, make sure the URL ends in .gov. When in doubt, perform a separate internet search for the website.

●Report the scam. If you’ve encountered this scam or have fallen victim, report your experience to


The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically increased demand for pets, as people seek ways to ease the loneliness and tension of prolonged time at home. With this rising demand has come a spike in pet scams: for many would-be pet owners, their online searches end with paying hundreds of dollars or more to purchase a purebred pet that ultimately doesn’t exist. BBB advisesextreme caution when shopping for a pet online, especially in light of scammers’ evolving tactics.

Soon after cities and states began to impose tighter restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19, BBB Scam Tracker saw a spike in pet fraud reports, with nearly 4,000 reports received in 2020 from the U.S. and Canada. The COVID bump is continuing into the holiday season with consumers reporting 337 complaints to BBB about puppy

scams in November 2020, a dramatic increase from 77 for the same month in 2019.

The medianlossreportedtoScamTrackerin2020is$750. Those aged 35 to 55 accounted for half of BBB reports in 2020.

BBB Scam Tracker Data

YearPet Scam ReportsLosses




2020 (Jan. 1 - Nov. 30)3,969$2,843,552

2020 (Projected)4,300$3,100,000

With the increase in scam activity has come an evolution in tactics. Scam Tracker data indicates that mobile payment apps like Zelle and CashApp are often used in such scams. Both Zelle and CashApp have issued warnings about pet scams. In addition, pet scammers now commonly use online advertising tools such as sponsored links to boost their fraudulent listings in search results.

In addition to telling buyers they cannot meet a pet before paying because of the pandemic, fraudsters have made COVID-19-related money requests for items such as special climate-controlled crates, insurance and a (non-existent) COVID-19 vaccine, according to Scam Tracker reports.

BBB recommendations for buying pets online:

●See the pet in person before paying any money. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, consider a video call using Zoom or Facetime with the seller so you can see the seller and the actual pet for sale. Since scammers are not likely to comply with the request, this may help avoid a scam.

●Do a reverse image search of the photo of the pet and search for a

distinctive phrase in the description.

●Do research to get a sense of a fair price for the breed you are considering. Think twice if someone advertises a purebred dog for free or at a deeply discounted price.

●Check out a local animal shelter online for pets you can meet before