As the COVID-19 pandemic rolls on, more and more people have sought to add to their sense of comfort and companionship at home by adopting a pet. For a period of time, unfortunately, many animal rescues and in-person adoption centers had to temporarily halt adoptions for safety reasons. In the face of that, people turned to the one option they saw remaining: the internet.
And then the scams grew.
Just when you think you’ve heard the worst about scammers, then they go and bring animals into the mix. Compared to this time last year, the number of online pet scams has tripled. With the sweet, furry faces of baby pugs, Frenchies, terriers, and labradoodles as lures, these scams play on people’s emotions and swindle them out of hundreds of dollars.
How do you avoid falling victim to a pet scam? Understanding how pet scams work can help you to identify and recognize them. And then you can perhaps even help to put a stop to such fraud.
How Pet Scams Work
Most pet scams start online as an ad on Craigslist or some other classified ads site. Or they can be a full-blown adoption website. These listings and websites will offer some desirable breed of puppy for sale. (There are some that specialize in kittens but, given their high demand, puppies comprise the majority.)
Under the pretense of maintaining social distance and so on, available puppies are not able to be seen in-person prior to payment. Of course, after payment is made, delivery of the puppy doesn’t happen, likely because the animal never existed in the first place.
How to Recognize a Scam
While not definite proof of a scam, an online pet listing that requires payment before you see the animal in person is something of a red flag. Whether you’re dealing with an ad or website, you can always request to meet your puppy in person via video chat to avoid in-person contact. If the seller continues to hem and haw about it, you can easily assume that they’re trying to scam you.
A website does indeed give the whole process a greater sense of legitimacy. But there are things you can look for to help you determine if a breeder site is genuine or not:
- The availability of contact information and, especially, a legitimate physical address
- Pricing that’s really low or otherwise inconsistent with that offered by other breeders
- The use of images that, upon further research, appear to be stock or “borrowed” from another site
- Similarly copied content
- Insecure payment processes
What You Should Do After Identifying a Pet Scam
Anytime you believe you have discovered a scam of any kind, you should report it to the proper authorities, such as the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission. They may not be able to get you your money back. But they can investigate and stop the scam from happening to anyone else.
All-in-all, the internet can be a great tool for research and learning more about the kind of puppy or kitten you would like for you and your family. But when it comes to actually getting your new best friend, meeting them in person is the only real way to go. That way, you can make sure you’re getting an animal that is compatible with you…and that actually exists.
For more information about all kinds of scams, be sure to check out the many articles on the subject on the PeopleFinders blog. And if you’re really interested in adopting? We recommend checking out the current animal availability and adoption policies of your local animal shelters and rescues.
Image attribution: Olesya Nickolaeva – www.shutterstock.com