How to Identify Online Pet Scams

This is very saddening and angers me. But as a business owner of a classified ad listing site for exotic animals, I have to put this out and warn and educate as many people as I can of what’s really happening. The truth is, pet scams has been around for years but ever since Corona virus hit the world, the amount of online pet scams has shot up.  Self-isolation, quarantine, working-from-home, social distancing and pretty much everyone avoiding socialization have created the perfect conditions for online scammers who take advantage of any opportunity to steal money from unwitting buyers.

The best way to avoid becoming a victim is to educate yourself on how this happens. But keep in mind that these scammers are getting smarter and are constantly changing their ways to make more money and avoid getting caught.  Here are some known facts and methods internet pet scammers have used to prey upon unsuspecting animal lovers.

How and where they advertise:

They are amongst genuine breeders posting fake ads on social media, classified advert websites and on search engines.

They have an online presence:

Scammers will often have professional looking website using fake credentials and cute animal pictures. Some may have pictures including kids or families with a given animal, or even send you videos in attempt to get you hooked or prove their validity. HOWEVER, these can be all fake, stolen or stock images and videos.

They will offer “too good to be true” discounts:

They offer undeniable discounts with a sense of emergency to pay. They may tell you that they have a promotion for free shipping if you put down a deposit now.  If you paid them a deposit, they may continue and say for an extra fee, they have shipping arrangements where they can have your pet delivered to your door step (…a very tempting and desirable offer for many people practicing social distancing).

They are experts at drawing you into a relationship with their non-existent animal by telling you things such as: “He is gorgeous and already showing potential for a great personality…”

Prefers communication via text:

They prefer SMS text or email for all communication. If you ask them to video chat or call to prove their validity, they will make excuses or simply not return your text.

Payment methods:

Payment is anonymous, usually by wire transfer like Western Union, Money Gram, Walmart, RIA Money Transfer, Bitcoin, Wire transfer via bank…etc. They may even have a good excuse ready and tell you why they cannot use any other methods, for example, they may tell you that they only breed twice a year and they are a small business so they want to cut down on credit card fees or that their bank is currently not working…etc.

Avoiding any visitations or video calls to see the animal’s existence:

They may tell you that you can come visit and even set up a date for you to visit their facility, but may try to take some type of up-front deposit prior to the date and never reply after you have paid. Or they may say that due to covid-19 restrictions, they are avoiding all in-person visits.

Complications, Threats and more:

Some reported Scammers have a fake website and a fake shipping company website as well. This is so that they can introduce you to their fake shipping company and give you fake tracking number. After they have you hooked and you deposit money, they may give you tracking number so you can track your pet’s progress…

BUT wait, they may not be done. Because you have already come this far, they may use psychological and other tactics to get you to pay more.

They may now try to convince you to pay multiple invented fees before you can see or receive your pet safely. These fake fees can include:

  • Vaccinations
  • Air-conditioned crate
  • Vet permits
  • Covid-19 release permits
  • City Permits

At this point if you raise any suspicion that you are being scammed, or being taken advantage of, they may threaten you by telling you that your pet is suffering in the airport because you did not pay the “Required Fees”, or may threaten you with “Animal Abandonment” (An actual law that does not apply in a case like this).

These are just some methods used by reported scammers but they are constantly evolving, creating multiple fake websites, moving to fake locations and coming up with new tactics to steal more money from those who don’t know any better.

Related Sites:

Reported Pet Scammer Websites

Reporting Scams via Money Transfer

Report Online Crime by Country