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Six Rules to Steer Clear of Online Pet Scams

A recent article in The New York Times highlighted the threat of online pet scams, where criminals pretending to be pet breeders swindle people out of their hard-earned money. Here are some rules to follow that will help protect you or your loved ones when looking for a pet.

  1. Work with organizations whose credentials are verified and legitimate. Go in person to adopt from a local rescue group or shelter, or search through credible groups like the American Kennel Club’s Marketplace or PuppySpot.
  2. Don’t wire money to someone you have never met. Scammers love wire transfers, often using companies like Western Union or MoneyGram because they leave the sender with practically no recourse. There is usually no way to reverse a wire transfer, unlike a credit card transaction, which can be canceled. Credible organizations should be able to process payments in multiple ways, like via credit card or PayPal.
  3. Ask for documentation. A responsible breeder will be able to give you information about an animal’s birth, genealogy, and medical history. A shelter should be able to provide a vaccination history, spay/neuter records, and other information that proves they have cared for the animal.
  4. Double-check website and email addresses. Scammers can make fraudulent websites and e-mail addresses that mimic reputable organizations. Check website and email addresses to make sure they are authentic. Rely on the websites of credible organizations like AKC Marketplace, PuppySpot, and Petfinder.
  5. Get photos of the pet. Scammers will often use photos pulled straight from the internet. You can reverse image search with a picture using image.google.com. This will let you see if this picture has been used before. If it has, you are almost certainly dealing with a scammer.
  6. Look for irregularities. Scammers usually rely on convoluted, emotional stories to convince you to send them money. Be on the lookout for unexplained extenuating circumstances that sound made-up. Additionally, scammers often have poor English – misspelling words and breaking common grammar rules. Be on the lookout for anything that appears irregular.

Scammers are out there, and they are dangerous. The best way to keep yourself and your loved ones safe is by following these rules.

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