In the market for a new puppy or kitten? Buyer beware! There are scam sites popping up all over the internet and it can sometimes be hard to tell the difference between a real site, or a fake one.
According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), the Covid-19 pandemic has brought on an increase in pet sales. Consumers are looking for comfort and a companion to help ease loneliness, or they have more time at home to be able to commit to a new puppy or kitten. But with the increase in pet sales, there has also been an increase with pet scams.
In November 2020, the BBB reported there were 337 consumer complaints of pet scams, that is 77 more than in November 2019. They also reported that those between 35 to 55 years of age accounted for half of the scams reported in 2020. The average amount of money that people were scammed out of is around $750.
Most pet scams start with a website that looks legitimate. They offer lots of photos of the pets, realistic paperwork and good reviews. But, once a person sends money for the pet, all communication is stopped, and the pet is never received.
The best bet to avoid a pet scam such as this is to buy directly from a local breeder, or a local animal shelter. Somewhere where you can go and see the pet in person and meet with the owner or breeder.
If that option isn’t feasible, your next step would be to find a seller who would be willing to have a video conference with you. Where you can talk to the person directly, as well as see the pet you are going to be purchasing.
Or find your next pet on a site such as petfinder.com, a reputable company that can be trusted.
Pay very close attention to listings on local classified sites such as Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. Most scammers on these types of sites will have a sob story about how they no longer can care for their pet, and they just want to give it away for free to a good home. They will then say they are unable to meet in person and you cannot pick the pet up. Some even use COVID-19 as an excuse. Then they will offer to ship the pet instead and ask that you pay for shipping or airline fees.
When trying to sort out what sites could be potential scam sites, it is important to look for some of these sure-fire signs:
Scam sites will usually be the first to come up in a google search for free or cheap pets. These sites are known to rack on additional fees for special crates or insurance.
These types of sites will also ask that they be paid through wire transfers such as Western Union, prepaid gift cards, Zelle or CashApp.
Animals advertised on these fake sites are usually always puppies or kittens and the most popular breeds advertised are Yorkshire terriers, French or American bulldogs and Maine Coon cats.
If you come across a site and you are unsure if it is real or not you can try the following steps to avoid being scammed out of your money and a new pet:
Do a reverse image search. You can copy and paste the online image of a pet and see if the same image is being used on other sites. If it is, chances are that it is not a real pet for sale, and they have just used someone else’s images from the internet.
Research the correct cost for that type of breed. If other breeders are selling that type of animal for a higher price, more than likely this is not a legitimate pet site. If the price seems too good to be true, it usually is.
You can also do some research of your own online at petscams.com. This site tracks and exposes pet scam sites. They have lists of pet scams along with photos of their pages as examples. Fake pet delivery service information is available, as well. If you come across a pet scam site yourself, you can report it at petscams.com, to help others avoid a scam.