Scammers target dog, other pet adoptions

August 21, 2018

Puppy scams are now targeting people who want to rescue a dog, not just purchase though a breeder. If you are looking to adopt a dog, use extreme caution with online services.

How the scam works

You are looking to adopt a dog and find an organization or individual online wanting to re-home a puppy. You message them for more information and receive a convincing, heart-tugging backstory. In one recent BBB Scam Tracker report, a scammer claimed to be looking for a new home for her English bulldog after discovering her son’s pet allergy. Although this scam mostly involves dogs, it can also include cats and other pets.

The scammer doesn’t charge an adoption fee, but they do request payment to ship the pet to your home. Most scammers ask you to pay by wiring the money or by using a prepaid debit card or gift card. After “shipping” the pet, problems arise. Common scenarios include emergency vet visits or additional shipping fees. The scammers ask for more money to resolve the problem, often promising to refund it after the pet is delivered. They may even claim that the pet will be euthanized if you don’t pay up. Once the con artists get your money and feel they won’t get anymore, they disappear. The dog never existed.

How to avoid the scam

• Never buy or adopt a pet without seeing it in person. This is the best way to ensure you aren’t caught in a con.

• Insist on picking the pet up in person and don’t rely on the pet being shipped.

• Ask many questions.

• Ensure the seller has individual veterinary paperwork for the pet on the letterhead of his or her veterinarian, and consider calling the veterinarian to verify the relationship.

• Consider adoption from a local animal shelter, where the entire family can meet and interact with an animal prior to adoption.

• Do an internet search of the pet’s image. Scam artists typically steal photos from

other online sites. Conduct an online image search of the pet’s photo to see where else the picture is posted on the internet. You can search “how to search by image” for instructions on how to do this. If the same picture shows up in multiple places, it could be part of a scam.

• Pay with a credit card. If a seller pressures you to pay by wire transfer or prepaid debit card, it is probably a scam. Be suspicious of any business that only accepts wire transfers, prepaid credit cards, or money orders. These are often preferred methods of payment for scam artists because it is difficult to track the funds.

For more information on puppy scams, see BBB’s full report at bbb.org/puppyscam.

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