RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — If you are looking to buy pets online, you may want to do your research before you give away your credit card information.

According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) puppy scams are surging with people saying home during the pandemic. In November, there were 337 complaints about puppy scams, which is a drastic increase from 77 this time last year.

With nearly 4,000 pet fraud reports received in 2020 from the U.S. and Canada, BBB recommends those looking to buy puppies should know the validity of the breeder before they buy.

“Don’t be buying dogs cats parrots or anything else online unless you’re absolutely sure the validity of that source,” President and CEO of BBB in Central Virginia Barry Moore said.

According to BBB, the median loss reported to BBB Scam Tracker in 2020 is $750 to those who fall victim to the scams, and the most targeted age group is between 35 and 55 years old.

In November, a woman from Hampton Roads reported to BBB that she was looking online for a puppy for her mother’s Christmas gift. She decided to buy a dog for $550 from one of the sites she found online. She kept all the emails and transactions that were made. She was told her dog was being shipped and then learned the shipping company was just another part of the scam. She has yet to receive her puppy, but she’s out her money.

Statement from Better Business Bureau

Recent Scam Tracker reports show many fraudsters are alerting would-be pet owners that they cannot meet the animals before sending money. tracks and exposes these scams. They recommend using video conferencing to meet the animal and owner virtually before buying as a way of reducing scam vulnerability.

Moore said that people searching for a new pet online can likely encounter a scam listing with people posing as legitimate breeders.

“Go to your local shelter and give a dog a break or a cat a break and maybe bring that one home,” Moore said.

Richmond Animal League agrees.

Elizabeth Thomas, the Executive Director of RAL, said the shelter has closed their doors because of COVID-19 but that hasn’t stopped them from finding forever homes for their animals.

The shelter is now doing virtual pet adoptions with foster families — Thomas said there are still plenty of pets that need homes.

But whether you choose to buy online or adopt, the message remains the same, “Do your research.”

“Know before you go,” she said. “Know before you start to adopt what you are getting into and make sure it is a full family decision but really look at what’s reputable.”

Thomas added that you can also visit your local animal control to adopt pets that the shelters don’t currently have the space for.