Thinking about getting a new pet? It’s tempting! But be sure to do your homework.
Experts believe at least 80% of sponsored advertisements about pets may be fake.
It’s a frustrating story: you see a cute animal listed for sale online, often on a classifieds website like Craigslist.org. Next, you reach out to the prospective seller and express interest in acquiring the animal. After you send money to the alleged owner to pay for the pet, you are told that additional funds are needed to cover the cost of things like a ventilated shipping crate, insurance, or other reasons. Regardless of how much money you send, the alleged seller finds new reasons to ask for additional payment. This continues until you realize it’s a scam and by then, you could be out of hundreds or thousands of dollars.
In reality, the entire exchange is a farce. Those cute pet pictures are usually pulled off the internet and used to create attractive (but fake) listings. The alleged sellers don’t own any actual pets and are just out to milk victims of all the cash they can.
To avoid becoming a victim of a pet adoption scam, there are several steps you should take:
- Adopt from a local shelter. There is an abundance of reputable nonprofit animal shelters in New England to choose from. By choosing to adopt your new family member, you will not only protect yourself from fraud, you will also benefit a worthy cause. There’s likely to be a lower cost to obtain the pet, and you’ll be dealing with a reputable organization.
- Always meet your future pet in person before paying. Fraudsters will come up with a million reasons why you can’t see the pet in person and will offer you pictures instead. Insist on seeing the pet in person. If the seller will not allow you to meet the animal, it’s almost certainly a scam.
- Beware of any seller who says they’re located out of town (or worse, overseas). Dealing with local sellers is usually the smart move.
- Never wire money for any purchase. Never send money for a pet purchase unless you have seen the animal in person (as opposed to simply online). If the seller asks for payment via wire transfer (Western Union or MoneyGram), that’s a big red flag of fraud. Also beware of requests to pay by reloadable prepaid cards (Green Dot MoneyPak, Reloadit, or similar cards), iTunes gift cards, or another unusual payment method. Payment sent via these methods is practically the same as sending cash.
- Do your research. Websites and postings that fraudsters use can appear to be realistic because they steal photos and language from reputable breeders. Try copying some text from their page and pasting it into a search engine in quotes and see if another breeder uses that same language. If another website uses the same or similar language, you may be dealing with a scammer.
- Check references. Do your own due diligence about the background of the seller before sending money. A good place to start is the American Kennel Club and the Humane Society of the United States. Ask for detailed information on the seller, including full name, phone number, and mailing address. Search online for information on the seller. If no information comes up in the search, or you see negative reviews, it could be a scammer instead of a legitimate seller.
- Don’t trust “free pet” offers. Fraudsters will sometimes use the offer of a “free pet to a good home,” as a way to ensnare an adopter into paying for fake vet bills or shipping costs.
- Make sure their pet shipper is legitimate. If you do take the risk of having your pet shipped, ask for the name and contact information of the shipping company they intend to use. After you have the name, use a search engine to find that shipping company and give them a call at the number on their website to make sure they know the breeder.