Ten Tips for Avoiding Online Pet Adoption Scams

Pet care & safety
woman on computer with beagle in the background

Scammers have been around since the dawn of time, taking advantage of trusting individuals to get what they want. In the age of the internet, scamming has taken on a whole new – and more dangerous – identity. Whether they’re posing as a sheik from a far-off country interested in sharing a fortune with you or an interested Craig’s List buyer who will authorize a deposit to your Paypal account just as soon as you forward the $500 shipping and handling fee for courier services, scammers are everywhere.

Scammers have even worked their way into the pet space. Sadly, con artists have been stealing pets and re-selling them to unsuspecting adopters for years. Now sites like Craig’s List, where found pets are listed in hopes they might be reunited with their owners, have made it even easier for these con artists to procure the pets they resell by posing at the owner.

The staff at Embrace has even been pulled into a pet adoption scam. Here’s how the scam works: a scammer on Craig’s List, Facebook, or E-bay is “selling” a purebred puppy or kitten – often for free or at a deeply discounted price for the breed. The eager adopter pays the “breeder” and then gets a notice saying the pet is being held at the airport because it is required to have insurance in order to travel. The adopter is told they must send an additional sum of money for the required insurance before the pet can be released.

This particular scam actually uses Embrace Pet Insurance’s name – making it look like the email about the additional fee for the “required” pet insurance policy came from us. When our Customer Care staff gets call to check on the validity of this claim, we sadly have to inform the eager adopter that they’ve been scammed. Unfortunately, even those who make the call to us and learn that they’ve been scammed may have lost hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars along with the hope of the pet they were so eager to make a member of their family.

The staff at Embrace loves pets and their people and we hate seeing eager potential pet adopters scammed, which is why Darcy Lindner, a concerned member of our Customer Care team, has come up with these 10 tips.

Tips for Avoiding Online Pet Scams

  1. Ask for multiple pictures of the pet, including poses with specific items (a recent newspaper, a tennis ball, etc.) to make sure the pet is real.

  2. Ask for a phone number for the person selling the pet and a veterinary clinic the pet has been to. If the seller won’t give the numbers, or if they are not US numbers, this is probably a scam. If they do give the phone numbers, call and ask questions.

  3. If the seller says they are in a particular state but asks you to send money elsewhere, especially another country, avoid it.

  4. If the seller/breeder is not located in the US, avoid it.

  5. If the person is claiming to be a breeder, ask for breeder registration information. If they won’t give it, walk away. If they do give it, verify with the appropriate breeders’ group.

  6. Never pay in cash via money order or Western Union. Always use a credit card in case you need to dispute the charges.

  7. Be skeptical if the seller adds “additional charges” such as: fees for a vet visit, a different crate, travel expenses, pet insurance, etc. Pet insurance is NOT required for a pet to be shipped or to travel.

  8. Don’t trust a seller that pushes for the sale to happen quickly by saying they are moving, they have to get rid of the pet asap, they can’t take care of the pet anymore or that harm may come to the pet.

  9. Do research to get a sense of what a fair price is for the breed you are interested in adopting. Think twice if they are selling a purebred dog for free or at a very low price for the breed.

  10. It should be a red flag if e-mail communications have broken English or very poor grammar.

Adopting a new pet is an exciting time. Do your research and don’t cut corners during the adoption process. Your best bet is to find an ethical breeder or a reputable local rescue group or shelter.

Have you heard about a pet adoption scam – or worse, gotten caught up in one? Share your story in the comments to pass along your knowledge to other adopters.