Pet owners have a strong emotional response when it comes to animals. Unfortunately, scammers prey on these emotions to get money. When you know the warning signs of typical pet scams, you’ll be less likely to fall victim to one. Educate your friends and family to keep them protected as well.
On their own, some of these red flags may not indicate much. For example, just because something is on the internet, that doesn’t automatically make it a scam. However, if an internet ad is promising free, purebred puppies that can be shipped from Africa, then you have triple red flags and a probable scam.
Red Flag #1: Internet postings
Scammers are out to make a profit. They do this by putting forward as little money as possible in order to lure victims in. The Internet is a perfect place for spreading information without putting down a cent. Online classifieds, email blasts, Facebook, and other social media are all cheap or free ways to put out an advertisement. Of course, these platforms are popular for anyone to use. There are plenty of legitimate postings online. Just remember that there are scammers in the mix as well. It’s far better to start out wary of a posting rather than finding out too late that you’ve been duped.
Red Flag #2: Free!
The better the deal, the less likely it is to be real. If someone is advertising free, purebred puppies, you can be fairly certain that there’s a catch or all-out scam going on. Scammers try to override logic with excitement and emotion. They want you to think, “Free puppies, what a great deal! I’d better get one fast before they’re all gone.” Instead, what you should think is, “Wait, why would someone give away free or discounted pets when there are plenty of willing buyers?”
Red Flag #3: Fast Deadline
You might see a pet ad that is pushing for a fast sale or adoption. Phrases like, “Get them before they’re gone,” or “Needs home immediately” could be forcing you to make an emotional snap judgment. The “here today, gone tomorrow” mentality suppresses logic and limits your time for proper research. Beyond the ad, if you are interacting with the seller or owner and they are aggressively pushing for a fast deadline, it’s a good idea to take a step back and evaluate the situation. Ask yourself why they might be pushing you to act fast. Would a responsible owner really wait until the last moment to put their pet up for adoption?
Red Flag #4: Untraceable Payment, Advances, and Fees
Cash transfers are red flags. Scammers want to get away clean with no proof that the money they have is yours. Avoid ads asking for cash or cash transfers, especially if they’re being sent to a location different from where the seller claims to be. Additionally, you should be wary if hidden fees start cropping up. A scammer might ask you to pay for a pet and cover shipping costs. That would seem reasonable to you, so you’d send the money. Later they might ask you to also cover the price of a shipping container. Then they might say the pet is ready to be sent but it needs shipping insurance. What’s really happening is the scammer is funneling as much money from you as they can before you realize that you’ve been scammed.
Red Flag #5: Lack of information
Scam or not, an initial posting online will probably be sparse on personal information. It’s smart of everyone to be careful with what information they make publicly available. As you begin to interact with a seller, however, if they seem eager to get your information but are unwilling to give their own, that’s a problem. It’s in your best interest to get as much information as you can and then do your research on it. Some victims of scams will post their stories online and list the company or seller that scammed them. You might also check listings to find out if the person really lives where they say they live.
Red Flag #6: Unverifiable facts and claims
If you have entered into a correspondence with a seller, it’s in your best interest to verify some facts. First of all, do they really have the pet you’re trying to buy? Ask for specific pictures, such as a shot of the dog outside, sleeping, playing with a ball, etc. If the pet doesn’t really exist, the seller won’t be able to produce the pictures. And note that mismatched pictures of different dogs in the ad are a huge flag. Professional pictures are also a big tip. If the photo looks like stock photography, it probably is. Other facts to verify are shots and veterinary care. If the seller claims in the ad that the pet has shots, ask for copies of the recepits. Ask if the pet has been to a vet. If the seller says yes, ask for the vets name and phone number, then call and verify the pet’s visit. If these don’t check out or the seller can’t or won’t give the information, walk away.
These are just a few key indicators for scams. In the end, the best policy is to do thorough and logical research before adopting a pet.