This is part two of a two-part series investigating pet scams in Wisconsin. To watch part one, click here.

WISCONSIN —  This internet crime exploded in the pandemic and has cost U.S. consumers millions.

A lot of people decided to add a furry companion to their household last year, and many went online to find the perfect pet.

According to the Better Business Bureau more than 1,500 reports of pet scams came into the BBB Scam Tracker in 2019.  In 2020 that almost tripled with more than 4,500 reported.  The BBB also tracked a big spike in consumer losses from $53,000 in 2019 to more than $3.2 million in 2020.

What You Need To Know

  • Pet scam reports jumped in 2020

  • Loss to U.S. consumers last year was $3.2 millon

  • Never buy a pet without first seeing the animal in person

Lisa Schiller with the BBB, Serving Wisconsin told us, "the numbers are still staggering, even though we think it's underreported." 

She pointed out this crime is an emotional one. 

"People see these photos online, especially if they have children, they see these photos, they fall in love with the animal. They'll name it."

But the pet doesn't exist. 

"Nine times out of 10 these photos that you're seeing are hijacked. They're stolen," Schiller said.

Something Wisconsin mom, Jen Bantz, knows now. She filed a complaint with the BBB Scam Tracker last year. Bantz wanted to buy her daughter a hairless kitten for her birthday. She fell in love with 9-week-old "Cindy" for sale on

"I called them up, talked to them in person. I asked for more pictures; he sent me more pictures of the cat," Bantz told us.

She paid $750 with a credit card on PayPal. According to Bantz, Sphynx kittens usually go for around $2,000.  

The documents for the kitten never came and Bantz said she could no longer reach the seller.  

"I was just blindsided and just wanted it to be true so bad that I just went along with it," she shared. "I kind of kick myself 'cuz I should have looked for the signals more."

Bantz was lucky; she's not out the money she paid for a kitten that didn't exist. Her credit card has fraud protection so the loss was covered. At last check, the site Bantz said scammed her, is no longer active. 

And it's not just the people pretending to sell pets that are part of this scam. Also flagged by the BBB are some pet transport companies. 

During the pandemic these fake companies piled on added COVID-19 fees. A BBB study showed people just kept handing over more funds for the so-called fees until they either ran out of money or a red flag went up. 

Another Wisconsin woman reported to the BBB Scam Tracker she lost more than $1,700 to what she thought was a legit pet transport company.  

Melissa Dicken found a kitten for her daughter on Craigslist.  Dicken said the owner told her she lived in L.A. and needed to find a new home for her pet. Dicken claimed the seller was only going to charge her $450 to cover shipping costs.

That's where Paramount Pet Transport comes in. Dicken said the seller put her in touch with the company, and the fees started to pile up, including more than $1,400 for a special crate. 

She told us, "They said the cat couldn't even leave L.A. without an appropriate heat and air conditioned crate." 

Dicken said the company claimed it was to protect the kitten from the virus.

Communication from Paramount shows the company promised the crate fee was refundable. Dicken paid through Cash App. 

Then the company tacked on another fee. 

Dicken said they asked for more than a thousand dollars for "refundable" insurance. Paramount told Dicken the kitten would not be allowed to complete the trip without it. 

Dicken said that's when the red flags went up and she told Paramount, "I said 'I'm not giving you another dime. Deliver the cat or give me my money back.'" 

The company did not refund her but just recently Dicken told us she was able to get the money back through her Mastercard. 

We reached out to Paramount Pet Transport by phone and email. The company has yet to respond to our request for comment.

Paramount is on the radar of a nonprofit watchdog group that tracks and flags the latest pet scam websites. Jack Whittaker created in 2017. 

"We noticed there wasn't any concentrated effort which deals with the ginormous problem of pet scams," Whittaker said.

The website posts a warning for each fake pet site it vets.  Over the last year, Whittaker said he's seen a big uptick in traffic to  He told us it usually averages 60,000 visitors a month. In January of 2021 that jumped to 180,000. 

Whittaker told us this scam is, "... effectively running rampant across the internet." 

He pointed out not a lot of money is being made per victim but said, " ... the problem with this crime is it's a volume crime.  You can fraud infinite amounts of victims for smaller amounts of money."

He commented these websites come and go and most scammers only register the domain for a year. 

"There's no checks and balances in place for stopping people from registering for websites, then selling a fictitious product," Whittaker said.

The website for Paramount Pet Transport has been suspended, but we noticed a company using a similar name and branding popped up under a new web address.  Whittaker verified that is also a fraudulent site and is now listed on

If you've lost money to a pet scam report it to the BBB Scam Tracker and the Federal Trade would also like to hear from you so it can inform other consumers.  

This is part two of a two-part series investigating pet scams in Wisconsin. To watch part one, click here.