Picture this: you log into your social media and the first post you see is someone offering the cutest puppies you have ever seen for sale. You just cannot believe that no one has snatched them up yet. So, you reach out immediately. The seller tells you they can only hold the animal if you pay a reservation fee and you have to do it right this instance or they will give it to someone else. So, you do. Then you never see your money or the dog ever again. Unfortunately, this is something we keep hearing over and over again.

The Better Business Bureau says 70 percent of people targeted by pet scams end up losing money, with an average cost in 2020 of $750. Just think, even if they only charge a $50 hold fee per person and they get 10 people to do it, they just made an easy $500. That is a lot of money for a pet that doesn’t exist.

If you are considering adding a new pet to your home and are doing so online, please be smart and take the time to ensure it is a real pet in need. Here are just a few do’s and don’ts to help ensure you are talking to a real person.

  • Don’t think just because they have a fancy website they are legit. It is easy for scammers to find cute pet photos and make a website.
  • Don’t deal with a seller who refuses to talk live on the phone. A red flag is wanting only email, text or online messaging communication.
  • Do always pay via credit card as this gives you greater protection if you must file a fraud dispute.
  • Do ask for multiple photos of the pet, not just one or two. It’s also always a good idea to ask for a photo with something that identifies that it is current and real (a specific item, a current newspaper, a television broadcast in the background, etc.).
  • If dealing with a breeder, do ask for their breeder registration information. If they cannot provide it, just walk away.
  • Don’t (EVER) pay a deposit or full payment for an animal you have not seen in person. You always want to see the specific pet they are claiming you will get from the transaction.

While we always hope that people choose adopting a homeless pet, we just want you to be safe however you choose to add a new pet to your family! Scammers are everywhere and taking advantage of people’s emotions. Don’t let them pull you into the trap.