With online scams continuously on the rise, it’s crucial to be aware of the different types of pet scams. Often times, people are lured in by seeing a cute puppy or other pet for sale, only to find out it’s actually a scam. To avoid falling for a pet scam, it’s best to educate yourself on the warning signs of a typical online pet scam.
Two commons questions are how do pet and puppy scams actually work and how do scammers get away with it? They usually publish these types of scams on a few different platforms:
- Posts and ads on bogus websites
- Fraudulent listings on Craigslist or eBay
- Phony social media posts
A post or website may appear credible at first and could include photos of the supposed animal for sale, along with details about the pet’s background and story — all with a fairly reasonable price tag that seems like a great deal.
The Warning Signs of a Typical Online Pet Scam
- Free Pets Available Now: A pet scam begins with a buyer searching online for pets or puppies that are for sale and are available immediately. In most cases, the seller will offer the pet for free and then ship the pet directly to them for a discounted price.
- Common Reasons for the Sale: Scammers almost always include a reason for the sale that sounds valid and believable. Such as, they are only giving the pet away because their child has passed away, they started a new job and cannot provide enough attention to the animal due to their hours, or their new house does not allow pets.
- Additional Fees: Once you commit to the sale, the scammer will send paperwork prior to delivery that requests additional money. They’ll mention it’s for the required temperature-controlled crate, shipping insurance, additional paperwork or shots, etc. Sometimes, they even go as far as setting up alternate email accounts or websites to look like an airline or shipping company. Then they’ll try to convince you that if you do not send them money, they will report you to the authorities for animal abandonment. Don’t fall for it!
How to Avoid a Pet or Puppy Scammer
If you are set on finding the perfect pet for your family, you must practice caution and a healthy dose of skepticism! It has become even easier for scammers and cybercriminals to target people based on their interests, promising something that you’ll never receive, and cheating you out of your money before you can realize what’s happening.
To avoid an online pet scam, follow these tips:
- Find a local breeder, animal shelter or rescue organization
- Schedule time to meet in-person
- Refer to a puppy scammer list – a website that retains up-to-date lists of all known pet scams in the U.S.
- If you are looking for a specific breed or animal, begin by searching for the average cost of purchase or adoption as well as average care costs, such as vaccination, veterinary and adoption fees. This will help you flag suspicious sellers that demand exorbitant costs
- Do not ever agree to pay before you actually have the puppy or animal in your possession — even if the seller promises to send it to you right away
- Never pay by gift card, wire transfer or payment app to someone you've never met in person. Legitimate businesses and nonprofit organizations would never ask for payment this way, and credible independent breeders or sellers should offer different payment methods
If you come across a pet scam, report it immediately! Submit a report to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). To learn more and ask questions about a company, email, website or if you feel you have been scammed, visit the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association.