During the coronavirus pandemic, the United States has seen a huge uptick in pet adoption. That's great news. However, while many shelters have seen their lowest numbers, pet scams reached their highest numbers.
Pet scammers (or "puppy scams") are clever and can often seem like the real deal, but PetRelocation has seen every trick. Read below to know what to look for and how to avoid falling victim to a pet scam.
I Found the Perfect Pet Online. How Do I Know He Or She Is Real?
- First, we highly discourage buying a pet from an unknown source, especially someone in a different state or country. If you (or someone you trust) can't go to their house, meet them, and see the pet for yourself, you're already taking a risk.
- Remember, just because someone has a picture of a pet doesn't mean it's real. Often pet scammers find a photo online and pass it off as their own. Consider performing a reverse image search with the picture of the pet. If the same picture appears on multiple or stock image websites, immediately cut off communication with the seller. There is no pet.
The same goes for "official" sounding pet company names. Google everything they send you to find out if they are real, and pay close attention to the email address they use. If it feels unprofessional, trust your instinct. If you begin communicating with them, pay attention to the grammar they use or how eager they are for you to submit payment.
Pet scammers are after your money. So, naturally, they will often begin discussing payment quickly. Here are a few red flags to look for.
- Often a pet scammer will say they are just looking for a good home for their pet they can no longer care for and are only requesting the buyer to pay for shipping or "transportation costs." This is often a very low fee but beware. Ask them which airline or carrier they are using to transport the pet, and then inquire with that vendor before making any payments. If it seems too good to be true, it very well could be
- If the seller or breeder asks you to pay with Western Union or MoneyGram, the chances are greater that they are not reputable pet handlers.
- Read this, and if these pet scam details sound familiar, walk away!
I Have Already Paid With Western Union or MoneyGram. Now What?
The pet scammer will likely attempt to get further funds besides what you have already paid them. Pet scammers do not have any pets in their possession, so anything they say regarding further payment is a lie. These stories are designed to pull on your heartstrings and open your wallet. Here are some of the instances we see often:
- The scammers will claim that the pet is being held at the airport and will not be released until another payment is made.
- There may be a last-minute request for a required insurance policy that has not been mentioned before.
- Pet scammers often tell their victims they are working with a reputable pet shipper, like PetRelocation, for delivery and then claim that the "hired" shipper is holding the pet until they are paid extra delivery fees. Please note: PetRelocation does not have any breeders they work with directly. When we are hired to deliver a pet, you will hear from your relocation coordinator long before the day or week of your pet's delivery.
- File a report with your local law enforcement and your local FBI office. Report as much information as you can, such as the scammer's email address, phone number, and any other information that may be relevant.
If You Will Be Purchasing A Pet Online or from Out of State
Make sure first to check that the seller and shippers are reputable. IPATA (the trade association to which PetRelocation belongs) has a list of known scammers that you can reference here. IPATA warns:
"These scammers are criminals. Their goal is to take your money. They use the names of legitimate pet shippers. They pirate websites and illegally use logos of other companies. If you see an offer that is too good to be true, it probably is. It probably is a scam!" - The International Pet & Animal Transportation Association (IPATA)
Here are some names of fraudulent companies and email addresses we have identified:
- UnitedAirPets.com, Tel: +1 (409) 263‐2714
- royalsphynxkitten.com, Tel: +1 (443) 308‐3203
Read more about puppy scams on our blog and via IPATA. If you run across a scammer who claims to be using our company to ship you a nonexistent pet, please let us know!