Imagine you’re ready to bring home a new furry family member. But joy quickly turns to sadness and heartbreak when you find out you’ve been part of a pet adoption scam. Unfortunately, cons can sometimes be hard to detect. So, in this article, we identify how to avoid them.
Let’s get to the bottom of it.
Why Do People Start Pet Adoption Scams?
Everyone has a story and reason for doing bad things. While we can’t identify why every person that starts a pet adoption scam does so, the motive is typically greed or desperation.
A scam is a crime, and criminals who start pet scams may do so for quick cash. Puppies can go for between $800 to $1,500 or even more, depending on the breed. For con artists, this is often an easy ploy to trick people when they least assume it. They may mastermind a false pet adoption organization or attempt to sell pets on online marketplaces.
Others behind adoption scams may be desperate for cash. Perhaps they’ve fallen on hard times or have various financial problems. But there is always a choice, and these people have chosen to cheat people under the guise of adorable puppies.
7 Common Pet Adoption Scam Red Flags
Pet adoption scams are when someone tries to rehome a sick, stolen, or fake animal for a fee. It’s important to note that pet adoption scams are uncommon, but you should still keep your eyes open for them. Let’s review seven common scams.
1. The Seller Doesn’t Want to Meet You in Person
It’s a red flag if the seller of the pet you want to adopt doesn’t want to meet you in person. The seller, in this case, will try to keep you from knowing the address of the pet’s location. And they’re likely to keep you from seeing photos of the pets home or doing a video call.
One pet adoption scam involves the seller requiring the animal to be shipped. They’ll ask you to go to a website, which is fake, to make a payment and arrange for the shipment and travel insurance. Unfortunately, the pet doesn’t exist and is never sent.
2. The Seller Tells You the Animal Will Suffer and You’ll Face Criminal Charges If You Don’t Send Money
Another common scam is when a seller tells you the animal is suffering. They may even try to guilt you into sending money and claim you’ll face criminal charges if you don’t. The scammer plays on emotions to complete the transaction. But there’s typically no animal, or if there is, it’s used repeatedly for the same scam.
3. Seller Prefers Email Communication Rather Than Phone Calls
When a person adopting out a pet only communicates with you via email, consider it a red flag. This is a way for them to avoid getting caught in answering questions and you trying to get to know them. Hiding behind an email or text can help the criminal disguise information.
They may also send emails from an unrecognizable address. Or the email may look strange with incorrect grammar or missing words.
4. Price Is Too Good to Be True
An easy way to spot a pet sale scam is when the price appears too good to be true. For example, a purebred Labrador Retriever puppy being sold for $500 is an obvious red flag because they would typically go for much higher. The scammer, in this case, likely needs some speedy cash.
On the other hand, if the ad is for pet adoption and the price is too high, that’s another indication of a scam. Adoption fees for dogs and cats are typically between $50 to $200. If the cost is over $500, that’s definitely a potential sign of a scam.
5. Stock Photos Are Used in the Ad
Stock photos used in a pet adoption ad indicate a scam. But deciphering between real and stock photos can be difficult these days. One way you can test the photo is to do a reverse image search to see if it’s anywhere else online.
To do a reverse image search, right-click on the photo and select “copy image address”. Then, go to images.google.com, click on the camera icon, paste the URL, and click “search by image”. You’ll then be able to see if it appears on other sites.
In addition, the seller will often post the ad in multiple places across Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. In other words, they’ll post the same photo and description of the same animal in multiple cities. Obviously, the same pet can’t live in multiple locations.
6. The Payment Arrangements Seem Odd or You’re Asked for Cash Only
Scammers may request a deposit to hold the pet or adoption fee in cash, a wire transfer, or via a gift card. It’s a way for them to cover their tracks and disappear after the deal. If the payment arrangements seem odd or you’re ever required to provide cash, it’s likely a potential scam.
7. Breeder Badges Are Used
Some puppy scammers will claim the dog has a breeder badge to prove it’s purebred. However, the AKC (American Kennel Club) doesn’t distribute badges to breeders. If the seller mentions a breeder badge, it indicates a scam.
8. The Seller Is In A Hurry to Rehome the Pet, But Firm On the Price
If the seller seems to be in a hurry without wanting to budge on price, the dog may be a stolen dog. Do a search on Facebook lost and found groups as well as local shelter pages for posts about missing pets, as thieves will try to rehome them as soon as possible.
What Do Thieves Do With Stolen Dogs?
Some scammers may have a real dog or another animal that they’re advertising for adoption. Some never have a puppy at all. But, in scam situations, the pet is often stolen.
Thieves will often attempt to sell a stolen dog as soon as possible online. They want to get rid of the dog and take payment for it before the owner has an opportunity to find the dog or even realize what happened.
In fact, this happened to our teammate’s sister. She let her purebred Boxer puppy outside, went in the house for 15 minutes, came out, and he was gone. Instinctively, she knew something was very wrong. She began searching the neighborhood while other family members immediately went to Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace to see if the pup might show up for sale. They kept refreshing the websites, and about two hours after the Boxer was missing, he showed up on Craigslist for sale for $800.
She and her husband arranged to meet the thief as “buyers” at a nearby restaurant. When the woman handed the puppy to them, they confronted her. They described the trauma she put them through and how the puppy was their family member. But they decided not to call the police as long as the thief promised never to do such a thing again. She agreed and sheepishly got in her car and left.
Fortunately, this family was lucky to get their fur baby back. But that’s not the case for everyone.
How Do You Avoid Pet Adoption Scammers?
Before you adopt a pet, make sure to research extensively. Adopting from a reputable rescue organization or shelter will help you avoid scammers and a lot of heartache. Take a look at our guide to the best pet adoption websites to start your search.
In addition, let’s look at three main ways to help you avoid pet adoption scams.
Get to Know Rescue Organizations or Shelters
Anytime you’re adopting a pet, insist on meeting in person before any money is exchanged. If it’s a private seller, arrange to meet at a public location. And if you’re adopting from a rescue organization or shelter, request a visit and ask questions about their operation. Make sure you have the opportunity to interact and get to know the animal before bringing it home.
In addition, always insist on having a phone call with the person if they’re not local to meet up with initially. It allows you to ask more pointed and personal questions to assess the situation before taking the next steps toward adoption.
Don’t Pay Upfront
Never put down a deposit or pay any money toward a pet adoption upfront, especially if you’ve never met the animal. Scammers asking for a deposit will take the money, and you’ll never hear from them again.
Use Credit Cards for Payments
Use credit cards for any payments you make so you can track your money. Also, if a scammer is looking for quick cash, they may not have a way to take credit cards, which is another red flag. Legit adoption organizations and shelters should be able to process credit card payments.
How Do You Report Pet Adoption Scam?
If you’re aware of or the victim of a pet adoption scam, you can report it to the Better Business Bureau. And if it’s an online scam, you can report it to the Federal Trade Commission. However, many scammers are never caught due to the amount of resources it takes to hunt them down. If they are skilled con artists, they will cover their tracks. Some scammers may even be overseas doing all their scamming virtually, which can be very difficult to trace and track down. This, unfortunately, is usually not worthwhile for law enforcement to track down.
If your pet is stolen, immediately look online at Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. Call your friends and family and have them log on as well. Continually refresh and score the websites to see if your dog has been posted for sale.
Be Cautious of Pet Adoption Scams
Use your gut when it comes to pet adoption scams. Essentially, if it feels like a scam, it likely is one. Know the red flags and do your due diligence to avoid getting caught up in a criminal’s handy work. Remember, always meet the animal in person before agreeing to the adoption and never provide upfront payments.
Have you been the victim of a pet adoption scam? We’d appreciate knowing about your experience and how it can help others in the comments below.
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