This has been National Adoption Week for pets, and by now, thousands of dogs and cats might have new homes in the hearts of many thousands of people. But as the holidays approach, scammers know that families are hearing about their kids’ NEED for a dog or cat. And scammers are ready to take advantage by offering up that perfect pet — for a fee. You’ll find ads offering litters of puppies, especially, on websites and listservs online. But once you pay, your supposed pet and the “breeder” will vanish, along with your cash. Here are ways to spot those puppy and pet scammers and stop them in their tracks.
- Start with a local rescue or animal shelter. A quick online search will point you to them, where you’ll be able to adopt for a small fee. There are even rescues for specific breeds, so check them out, too.
- Check out the rescue, shelter, or breeder. Search online for their name, plus words like “complaint” or “scam.” See what others have to say about them.
- Check out the photos. Are the pics of the available cute puppies and kitties just stock pictures? Or are they copies taken from somewhere else? Do a reverse image search to see. If they’re either, move on.
- Have an in-person or video visit. Legit rescues, shelters, and breeders alike want to make sure you and your new pet are a good match. They’ll encourage an in-person or video meeting. If they don’t want you to visit, video chat, or even talk by phone, move on to someone else.
- Watch how you’re asked to pay. Nobody legit will ever require you to pay by gift card, wire transfer service like MoneyGram or Western Union, or cryptocurrency. And paying by cash transfer services, like Venmo, makes it hard to get your money back. So stick with a credit card, if you have one, for the most protections if something goes wrong.
If you spot one of these scams, tell the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. All the cats and dogs of the FTC wish you well in adding a new family member to your home.