The desire for the companionship of a pet during the pandemic has ended in heartbreak for many people.

The Better Business Bureau says Canadians have lost hundreds to thousands of dollars to puppy scams.

The organization says the riskiest online purchase scam is pets and says extreme caution is necessary because of scammers’ evolving tactics.

The Better Business Bureau says dog breeders usually have a permanent website, “not just a Facebook page which can be put up and taken down and usually gives little information.”

It also says the information should be there for “the breeding dogs – not just cute puppy pictures.”

A breeders website will “show the individual breeding dogs, their show titles, health clearances, and the highlights of their breeding program or accomplishments of their dogs.”

It also recommends verifying the creation date of the website of the breeder by copying the URL and checking out on Who.is.

A recent creation date could indicate that it is most likely a scam.

The BBB says if the dog is advertised as “purebred” in Canada, it must be registered with the Canadian Kennel Club by the breeder, not the owner.

Imported dogs from US are registered with the American Kennel Club, or the kennel club of the originating country, then registered in Canada before it can be transferred into the new owners’ name.

All purebred puppies must be identified with a microchip or tattoo by the breeder for registration.

The Better Business Bureau has some tips for people interested in getting a pet:

See the pet in person before giving any money, or try to have a video call with the seller to see them and the actual pet for sale. Scammers are not likely to agree to a video call.

Do a reverse image search of the photo of the pet to see if the image has been used previously on other websites or ads.

Find out what a fair price is for the breed you are considering and think twice if someone advertises a purebred dog for free or at a discounted price.

Prospective buyers are also urged to ask for references and call them.

Another concern is third-party transportation companies. The BBB suggests dealing with a breeder that lives within a comfortable traveling distance so it’s easy to drive to see the pet before sending money.

The Better Business Bureau also warns people to watch out for sales agreements that contain all kinds of caveats such as: all receipts must be kept, court action at purchasers cost, and others.