RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — If you’re looking to adopt a pet, officials say you should keep an eye out for online pet adoption scams.

Better Business Bureau of Eastern North Carolina warns that an online search could trap would-be pet owners in the scheme, tricking them to pay hundreds of dollars or more to buy a pet that doesn’t actually exist.

They say one Raleigh resident lost $1,600 to scammers after being told a puppy would be shipped to them.

Once the payment was sent and the buyer asked for proof that the seller had the puppy, officials say all contact ceased.

The BBB reports another victim lost $2,300 after paying for a puppy and crate and then was blocked by the scammer.

“Pet scams are unfortunately all too common,” says Mallory Wojciechowski, President and CEO of BBB. “We urge consumers to be diligent before adding a pet to the family. Far too often, people are losing money due to these believable scams.”

Experts say it’s important to make sure you’re getting a pet from a reputable place.

BBB offers the following tips for adding a pet to your family:

  • See the pet in-person before paying any money, or ask to video conference with the seller if an in-person visit isn’t an option
  • Do a reverse image search of the photo of the pet
  • Do research to get a sense of a fair price for the breed you are considering
  • Look for pets at a local animal shelter where you can meet them before adopting

Victims of pet scams are advised to use the following resources:

  • Petscams.com –  tracks complaints, catalogs puppy scammers and endeavors to get fraudulent pet sales websites taken down
  • Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – file a complaint online or call 877-FTC-HELP
  • BBB Scam Tracker – report a scam online or check what other consumers have come across

Those who paid with a credit card are also advised to report it to their credit card issuer, even if the transaction was not completed.

For more information, click here.