Alert for holiday pet scams when looking to buy a new pet online

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RICHMOND, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- People may be looking for a special animal to add to the family this time of year, but they need to be careful if looking to buy a pet online.

AARP Virginia says a national survey found that 80 percent of sponsored search sites offering pet for sale in 2017 were fraudulent.

The organization says the website looked legitimate and the "sellers" appeared to ask the typical adoption questions, but it says the images of the animals used to lure in potential victims are likely stolen from legitimate sites.

AARP says once a victim begins to pay for an animal purchased from such a site, the chares can pile up for things like last-minute medical needs or travel expenses, and the animal will never arrive.

The organization urges people looking for a pet to thoroughly vet any online offerings from breeders, shelters or rescue organizations.

A better option might be to consider visiting a local animal shelter in person.

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