Better Business Bureau: Scams target pet owners online

September 5, 2013 

Dabbing at the perspiration on her forehead, with a tissue in one hand and the backside of her other hand, Rhonda LaCasse, lets out a loud vocal sigh of completion.

“I’d have been done sooner, but I’ve had some bad kids today,” says the owner of Grooming by Rhonda, a BBB-accredited business. “Every once in a while you get those that just won’t behave, and they take longer.”

When LaCasse started grooming pets at her State Street site in 1997, she was out in the country. In fact, most of State Street was somewhat countrified back then, she’ll tell you. It was good back then since many of her clients were dogs that bark.

“I don’t want to jinx it, but this is the first year in a while that I’ve been bustin’ the hump in August,” she says. “Usually, we see it taper off as parents get their kids back to school and they try to squeeze in those final vacations.”

Last year, Americans spent more than $53 billion on pet food, veterinary care, kennels, grooming and services, according to the American Pet Products Association. Trade group president and CEO Bob Vetere says it’s an increase of 5 percent from 2011. As to grooming, boarding and pet sitting, it grew by as much as 10 percent during the same time, reaching almost $4.4 billion.

This spending also increases fraud. Scam artists realize how much people love their pets, and the bad guys are lining up to take advantage.

Idaho Falls resident Carole Smith (not her real name) called BBB after receiving a phone call saying she’d won hundreds of dollars in prizes and a million-dollar grand prize after she’d signed up to receive “free stuff ” from a pet-related online resource.

“He had my name and address, and asked me for my ZIP code,” she says. “I never signed up for anything of course, and I didn’t give him any information.”

BBB called the number on caller ID, and a man answered, “All About The Pets, how may I help you?”

“Robert,” an employee, says they are in New York. The company provides discounts, coupons and rebates on pet accessories, food and veterinary services.

“All they have to do is go to the website, allaboutthepets.com to register and they get discounts by mail,” he says.

Robert says All About The Pets does not need Social Security numbers, and it doesn’t hold drawings or lotteries.

He denied calling Mrs. Smith.

When BBB searched for the website, it did not exist. There is no business record with the New York Secretary of State. There is no such business in the BBB directory. There are several websites for allaboutpets and one — allaboutthepet.com (note no “s”).

When BBB called the number later, there was no answer.

BBB says be cautious when buying products from online retailers.

• Do research on online search engines before making purchases.

• Search for reliable “Pet Supplies & Foods — Retail” companies on bbb.org.

• Beware of sites with bad reviews by growling customers.

LaCasse says pet owners need to meet with their service provider and suppliers. Supplements and food choices top the list of pet health purchases, while pet sitting, pet grooming and pet transportation lead pet services.

“I’m not one to hold back,” LaCasse says. “It’s important to know who you’re dealing with. I’ll tell people when they’re out of line with their animals, and I’ve seen a lot of animals over the years.”

Robb Hicken: 947-2115

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