Fighting Puppy Fraud

Amy Donaghue

By: Karen Sylvester, AAP, APRP, CAMS, CRCM, NCP, Senior Director, Compliance Education

🎵 How much is that doggie in the window,
The one with the waggly tail?
How much is that doggie in the window?
I do hope that doggie’s for sale! 🎵

Patti Page released the popular novelty song How Much is the Doggie in the Window in 1953. When I hear the song, I think of puppy kisses, puppy breath and all the joy that comes from puppies. Personally, if I had an unlimited amount of money and space, I would have more than two dogs in my life. The dream of having a four-legged best friend is a dream for many!

Now, fraudsters are turning our love for our four-legged friends into one of the most common phone call scams. Our Member Support team has received several calls from EPCOR members whose account holders are dealing with these scams as well.

In this scam, the fraudster entices individuals to provide their account information to ‘purchase’ an adorable, loveable puppy. Consumers are paying top dollar for precious, adorable, FAKE puppies, and when they arrange to pick up the pup, they realize the whole thing was a scam! What should be an exciting time for the would-be dog owner quickly turns into a nightmare when they realize they’ve lost their money and won’t be picking up their new fur baby.

So, how do you help your account holders when the puppy bandit is holding the puppy hostage or the puppy doesn’t even exist? Honestly, there may not be much that you or your organization can do. As much as we sympathize with the situation, one question must be asked – did you authorize the transaction posting to your account? If the answer is no, then the transaction should be put into the Regulation E Error Resolution process. If the answer is yes, then your options to help the account holder may be limited.

If payment for the puppy was sent via an ACH Transaction, Subsection 2.4.3 on page OR14 of the ACH Rules specifically states the Originating Depository Financial Institution (ODFI) does not warrant goods and services. This means if there is a disagreement about the product or service being purchased, that disagreement needs to be handled between the seller and buyer outside of the ACH network.

If the transaction was processed through the card network, contact your financial institution’s card processor for additional information and transaction dispute requirements and considerations.

Fraudsters have also been encouraging account holders to use consumer-third party apps such as PayPal, Venmo, Zelle and Cashapp (just to name a few). Within the terms and conditions of these apps, they remind the users to only send money to people they know because once money is sent via these apps, it is very difficult to get it back.

As much as we want to help our account holders, we may not be able to after the fact. However, like many frauds, bringing awareness to this form of fraud is a great preventative measure. Here are a few common red flags according to the American Kennel Club:

  • No phone calls. The seller prefers to handle communication by email and not the phone. A reputable breeder will always communicate with the buyer via phone or video chat (if not in person) before selling a puppy. Fraudulent sellers are often outside of the U.S. and may be hiding their phone number by only communicating via email.
  • Copycat or stock photos. Photos of the dog or ad text can be found on multiple websites. Search for the text in the listing to see if the seller copied and pasted it from another site. Or, reverse image search the photo of the puppy.
  • Sketchy payment. The seller asks for wiring of money or payment by gift cards. Choosing a non-secure method of payment makes it is highly unlikely to get any money back. Avoid paying a stranger using apps such as Venmo. Paying by credit card or PayPal are typically the safest options.
  • Price is too good to be true. Research the prices for the breed you are considering ahead of time. Purebred dogs sold at deeply discounted prices are typically fraudulent. If the seller says they register their dogs with a specific organization, you can call the organization to confirm.

Aside from sharing any preventative information, reminding account holders to do their due diligence, look out for scams and learn from mistakes is sometimes all we can do. If you’re looking for resources to share as a preventative measure, EPCOR has created short Did You Know informational videos your institution can share on your website. We currently have videos on a variety of scams including money mules, synthetic identity fraud, business email compromise and more. Check out our Did You Know videos on YouTube and our website. If you’d like to host any of our videos on your website, reach out to Member Support at 800.500.0100 or memserve@epcor.org for more information.

Source: AKC.org

It’s PAW-sible to Fight Fraud

You may be wondering; HOWL is that possible?! Well, stay on top of the latest compliance and fraud issues currently impacting the payment space with our Quarterly Compliance and Fraud Review webinar on November 10th! Together, we will examine the latest threats and challenges circulating the payments industry so that your organization can plan a proactive response. Current fraud schemes, compliance considerations and mitigation techniques will be discussed. Register now!