MACON, Ga. — Their big eyes and floppy ears hide the danger. We're talking about "puppy" scams.

Whether you're still scrambling to finish off your Christmas list or you're thinking about gifts for the new year, the Better Business Bureau says you should be on the lookout for this one.

"Every parent feels it and what better thing to open up on Christmas morning than a nice little puppy," said Kelvin Collins with the Central Georgia BBB.

It's not just puppies either. Collins says the scams can involve any type of pet. 

Those pets can make great gifts when bought from a reputable seller, but they're also very risky purchases if you're shopping on the internet.

"Nationally 60% of the people that are looking for a pet online are going to end up on a scam site," said Collins.

The number of reported scams is rising. According to the BBB, pet scam reports have risen 39% since 2017 across the country from about 4,600 in 2017 to an estimated 6,500 this year. 

They work by drawing a potential buyer in with cute photos and promises to ship the pet once it's purchased, but once the initial payment is processed, the 'seller' says there have been problems.

They start tacking on extra charges, Collins says, needed to cover vaccinations, shipping, and microchipping, and on and on.

"They'll come back and ask for $200 here or $300 here," said Collins. "They'll ask for those small incremental amounts, and it's after you really start doing the math that you realize how much you actually spent, and you never received your puppy."

So what do you do if you still want to get one?

Collins says try to find a local seller. Even if you're shopping online, this is good advice. Collins suggests demanding an in-person visit with the pet before you pay for it. If possible, picking it up yourself instead of getting it shipped also reduces the likelihood you're dealing with a scam.

Maybe the most reliable thing to do, though, Collins says, is to just get a pet from a rescue shelter.

For more information on this scam and others, you can visit the BBB's website here.

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