You’re in the market for a furry new friend and the online ad you’ve seen makes you believe that dream is well within reach—as well as within your budget.
Before you start stocking up on doggy biscuits, though, take a big step back. The internet is full of pet scams targeting future pet owners and milking them for money once they’re already emotionally invested in their new ball of fuzz.
Pet scams include nonexistent animals for sale by private “sellers” or bogus pet adoption websites that offer pets for sale at crazy-low prices.
In both circumstances, eager buyers will be lured into dropping loads of money on extra costs, like shipping and insurance, while being promised an adorable new pet at a bargain price. All fees will be collected via wire transfer or prepaid debit card, and will need to be paid before the “pet” is shipped.
Of course, there is no pet and the entire process is a scam. The scammer may continue finding excuses to collect money from the victim until the victim realizes they’ve been scammed. At this point, the victim is out thousands of dollars with no way to get their money back.
Protect yourself from pet scams with these ground rules:
- Don’t agree to wire money for a pet purchase or to pay via prepaid debit card. Instead, ask if you can pay with a credit card.
- Don’t send money for a pet purchase before you actually see the animal in reality.
- It’s best to work with a local pet seller so you can exchange the money and the animal in person.
- Consider adopting a pet from a local shelter instead of buying one from a private seller. You’ll be dealing with a reputable organization instead of working with an anonymous seller.
- Dig up any information you can about the seller before agreeing to the purchase. Do a quick online search to see what the internet is saying about them. If possible, ask for names and numbers of past buyers you can use as references.
- Be extra wary of offers of “free” pets. They may be a trap to lure you into paying steep “shipping” fees for an animal that doesn’t exist.