Beware of Online Pet Adoption Scams

The Better Business Bureau is warning people to be aware of pet adoption scams that tend to increase during the holidays.

“I paid $700 for a kitten that does not exist,” reported one consumer to BBB’s Scam Tracker.“My kid is devastated because she was waiting for a kitten to be delivered to our house today.”

The BBB says the scam often starts with an online ad with a picture of an adorable puppy or kitten in search of a new home. Victims are quickly sucked in and are offered a low price for a popular breed. Scammers will go as far as sending a questionnaire to the buyer, asking for personal information as part of the application process.

Scammers promise to deliver the animal to the airport or even the the buyer’s doorstep. The victim is asked to make a payment or wire money to cover transportation costs. Unfortunately, once payment is received the pet never arrives and the seller mysteriously disappears.

Consumers all over the country have lost hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars on these rip-offs.

Watch for the following red flags:

  • Scammers post on Classified Ads like Craigslist or  Scammers post pet ads that are too good to be true. They often state that they want the pet to go to a loving home. If it sounds too good to be true that’s because it usually is.
  • Poor grammar and misspellings. Many pet scams originate overseas, so scammers may not have a good grasp of the English language. Be mindful of ads that are filled with misspellings and grammatical errors.
  • Wiring money. Wiring cash to an unknown person is asking for trouble. Once the transaction is complete, it is next to impossible to get money back.
  • Too good to be true deals. Be wary of any ads offering exotic or rare breeds for low prices or for free.
  • Pay for transport. Be wary of pet sellers requesting upfront shipping costs for a third-party transport company.
  • Communication. Steer clear of sellers that will only communicate by email or text, but not by phone.
  • Immediacy. Avoid high pressure sales tactics. Emails from pet scammers often indicate that funds must be sent immediately if the pet is to make the flight departure time.

Consider adopting pets from a shelter in order to see the animal before acquiring. Check contact information for companies at to be sure that the name, phone numbers and addresses match.

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