This holiday season you’re looking for a furry new friend. The online ad you’ve seen makes you believe that dream is well within reach—as well as within your budget!
Before you start stocking up on doggy biscuits, though, take a big step back. The internet is full of pet scams targeting future pet owners.
What are Pet Scams?
Pet scams include nonexistent animals for sale by private “sellers” or bogus pet adoption websites promising adorable new pets at bargain prices.
Eager buyers are then lured into spending money on extra costs like shipping, insurance, or food costs for the animal. Costs collected via wire transfer or prepaid debit card need to be paid before the “pet” is shipped.
Of course, there is no pet and the entire process is a scam. The criminals make off with the victim’s nonrefundable money and, unfortunately, the cute little puppy never shows up.
Protect yourself from pet scams by approaching the gift of a new pet with these ground rules:
- Don’t agree to wire money for a pet purchase or to pay via prepaid debit card. Instead, ask if you can pay with a credit card. This way, you’ll have purchase protection and a way to back out of the transaction if the deal goes sideways.
- Don’t send money for a pet purchase before you actually see the animal in reality. Anyone can find an adorable picture of a puppy online and post the animal for sale.
- Be extra wary of an out-of-town or long-distance seller. It’s best to work with a local seller so you can exchange the money and the animal in person.
- Consider adopting a pet from a local shelter instead of buying one off a private seller. You’ll be dealing with a reputable nonprofit organization instead of an anonymous seller you don’t know you can trust. Local shelters also tend to cost a lot less and you won’t have to pay for shipping fees.
- Dig up any information you can about the seller before agreeing to the purchase. Do a quick online search to see what the internet is saying about them. If possible, ask for names and numbers of past buyers you can use as references.
- Be extra wary of offers of “free” pets. They may be a trap to lure you into paying steep “shipping” and “insurance” fees.
Proceed with caution when purchasing a pet over the internet. If you’ve verified that everything checks out, and you’re careful throughout the process, you can have your new furry friend and your money, too.