Scammers are luring pet lovers out of thousands of dollars with photos of cute puppies, heart-breaking stories and irresistible prices. It can sometimes be hard to recognize a scam, until it is too late. Here are some tips on identifying pet scams and how to purchase a pet safely.
1. Many scams begin with an advertisement on Facebook, a website or in the classified ads
When you respond, most likely over e-mail or text, you will soon learn that the animal is not in your area and there is no way to visit the animal before you buy it. In many instances, the advertiser will tell you that someone else will ship the pet, and once you pay the shipping fees, usually by Western Union or MoneyGram, the animal will be part of your family. But additional costs will soon follow – extra shipping costs, crate fees, vaccinations and insurance. After sending more and more money, you eventually learn there is no animal.
Scamwarners.org, a non-profit anti-scam organization manned entirely by volunteers, has seen a large increase in pet scams over the past several years.
2. Before sending any money to any pet seller, please read these tips
- Insist that the seller enter into a formal contract. The document should detail the method of transportation, timeframe, the airline of carriage, all associated costs, and copy of the health certificate.
- Check references. If the seller says a specific company will handle the shipping, get complete details for the shipping company and then check them out! Use Google to research them and call them to confirm that they know the breeder. If the seller will not give you this information, don’t send them any money!
- Check affiliations. Scammers might even claim to be a member of the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association (IPATA). You can look up their company name in the IPATA member directory (visit ipata.org and click on “Find A Pet Shipper”). If the company name is listed there, check the contact information and contact that company! On occasion, there are new members that are not listed on the IPATA Online Directory. If you have questions, please contact IPATA directly firstname.lastname@example.org to confirm a company’s membership.
- Examine the website. Scammers copy websites for reputable companies – making it even harder to identify them. Examine the site, look for poor grammar, inconsistencies, and misspellings (especially in the email address), and confirm international phone numbers (countrycallingcodes.com/Reverse-Lookup.php).
- Check the phone number. Insist that you get a phone number for the seller and shipping company. To avoid communication, scammers may claim to be hearing impaired. You should test the numbers to make sure a real person answers. If the country code for the number is 237, it is a scam!
- Most importantly – Be wary of sending funds by Western Union or MoneyGram
Scammers will tell you this is the most inexpensive and fastest way of doing business. They might even tell you to lie to the Western Union agent, saying you are sending money to a family member or a friend because it is “cheaper”. Legitimate companies usually accept payment by credit card, PayPal, or direct wire to their bank.
Scammers play on emotions with cute photos or stories that an animal needs to be rescued from harm. The virtual world provides untraceable websites, disposable e-mail addresses and instant money transfers – a conman’s paradise. Every day these scams look more legitimate, so it is important to know the ways to identify the frauds.
If you want to purchase a pet, you should work with a legitimate breeder or retailer in your area—better yet, get a referral from someone who has already bought an animal from that company. If you are on a tight budget, or you really want to find a pet quickly, please consider visiting a pet shelter in your community. Purchasing an animal through legitimate sources may be a lengthier process or more expensive, but it is secure and you will get the pet.
3. Think you have you been scammed?
Please visit https://www.ipata.org/pet-scams for complete details on how to identify a scam, actions to take once you’ve been involved in a scam and how to report a scammer. You can also Report scams online to Scamwarners.org, Petscams.com, www.antifraudintl.org and scamawareness.org. You can also file a complaint with the Internet Crime Commission: http://www.ic3.gov
About BLISS PET SERVICES
Bliss Pet Services is a member of the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association (IPATA), a non-profit, worldwide trade association for animal handlers, pet moving providers, kennel operators, veterinarians and others who are dedicated to the care and welfare of pets and animals during transport.