MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – As the pandemic has fueled the demand for new household dogs and cats, it’s also increased the number of pet scams.

Better Business Bureau reports that pet scam reports in 2020 have more than doubled compared to 2019. Nearly 4,000 pet scam reports have already been filed this year.

The projected total dollar loss from these scams is expected to top $3 million in this year, which is more than six times the loss reported in 2017. The median loss in 2020 is around $750.

For scammers, the pandemic has provided the perfect excuse to keep customers away from visiting the pet in-person. They can also ask for more money to provide fake COVID-related shots or specialized crates for transport.

To combat the scammers, the BBB recommends that people should see the pet before buying it. Video calls with the seller can confirm that there is an actual pet for sale. They also suggest being wary of websites with spelling errors, and recommend against wiring money.

They also say to be skeptical of low prices on a puppy, especially if it is purebred. Though the offer initially sounds good, it’s a common bait-and-switch tactic, and the scammers often ask for more money later on. To confirm the breeder is real, BBB recommends asking for at least two references.

Though puppies remain the most common bait in a pet scam, 12% of pet scam complaints to BBB were about kittens or cats.