Pet adoptions skyrocketed in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, as quarantine-weary folks went searching for a new best friend. But another COVID-19-related increase was a surprising companion to the puppy boom: fraud.
Criminals saw an opportunity when social distancing meant that many shelters were closed for visits, and demand for adoptable pets quickly outpaced supply. Pawneet Abramowski, chief compliance officer for Community Federal Savings Bank, believes people were more susceptible to sketchy situations because they were eager to support animal shelters and rescue groups. "Fraudsters were calling up people and saying, 'Hey, I have a pet for you to provide rescue assistance or to adopt,'" says Abramowski. "People were sending money to save animals that they thought were in danger because of COVID."
Pet adoption fraud is just one novel criminal enterprise to arise from the COVID-19 pandemic. The US Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCen) published an advisory on February 24, 2021, that outlined 6 different types of criminal activity and provided 14 red flag indicators that financial institutions are using to determine whether a transaction is suspicious.