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SCAM ALERT: Pet adoption warning


It’s hard to resist those giant paws and puppy eyes, but each year unsuspecting consumers end up getting duped into buying bogus pets from unscrupulous cons. Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington says pet adoption scams surge this time of year, leaving families with broken hearts during the holidays.

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Better Business Bureau

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

Often times the scam 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.

When it comes to purchasing the pet, scammers promise to deliver the animal to the airport or even one’s doorstep. The victim is asked to make a payment or wire money to cover transportation costs. Unfortunately for the consumer, 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 each of these rip-offs. BBB warns potential pet owners to not play this cat and mouse game.

Instead watch for the following red flags:

  • 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 locally in order to see the animal before acquiring. Check contact information for companies at bbb.org to be sure that the name, phone numbers and addresses match.

Help us investigate and warn others about fraud by reporting what you know at BBB’s Scam Tracker.

About the BBB

For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. BBB serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington, founded in 1918 and serving more than 9 million consumers, is one of 113 local, independent BBBs in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

In 2014, people turned to BBB serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington more than 5 million times for BBB Business Reviews on more than 264,000 local businesses and for Charity Reports on more than 1,200 local charities, all available for free at akorww.bbb.org.