Exposed! Shocking Adoption Scams

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 prince from a far-off country interested in sharing a fortune with you or an interested Craigslist 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.

Here’s how one scam works: 

A scammer on Craigslist, Facebook, or E-bay is “selling” a purebred puppy or kitten, often for free or at a deeply discounted price for the breed and lives out of town.

The eager adopter pays the “breeder” (including the transportation fee) 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 a well known pet insurance’s name, making it look like the email about the additional fee for the “required” pet insurance policy came from them. When their Customer Care staff gets a call to check on the validity of this claim, the insurance company sadly has to inform the eager adopter that they’ve been scammed. 

Unfortunately, even those who make the call to them 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.

This is another popular scam:

Pet Flipping

Dog flipping has exploded across the country. It’s unclear how organized and strategic pet thieves and dog flippers are, but in some cases it appears as if criminals target their prey very carefully. Often, the dogs that disappear are very valuable and used for breeding.

In a typical pet-flipping situation, a criminal will get hold of a pet, either by stealing it, usually from the owners yard, a parked car, seeing the animal in a “Pet Found” poster or ad on Craigslist and claiming to be the owner, or getting a "free" dog/cat on Craigslist and then turn around and sell it for a quick profit.

If you find a dog, ask the caller what sex the dog is and to give you the name of the dogs veterinarian with phone number and call to see if the dog has ever been there. If it's the callers dog, he'll know this information...also...ask what extinguishing marks the dog has...this is just to throw off the alleged suspect. Better safe than sorry!
^This poster is a sample ^
It’s a cause for concern for pet owners, obviously, but also for anyone looking to buy a dog or cat. The scam is an extension of dog-napping, a trend that the American Kennel Club reported spiking in recent years. 

The American Kennel Club is reporting a sharp rise in dog-napping so far this year, and recommends keeping your pup on a short leash.

“We are getting reports almost daily of pets stolen during home invasions, out of parked cars while people are running errands and even snatched from dog lovers out for a walk in the park,” says spokesperson Lisa Peterson.
The "scammers" create an ad with a cute photo of the pet (gotten off the internet). They place this ad in Craigslist or other media sources, saying - "they're moving, too many pets in household, just had a baby, person is sick or can't financially afford to care for the pet", are just a few of the many excuses given.
Typical photos "flippers" pet(s) up for adoption
They can't provide any health records or much information regarding the pet. Occasionally, they'll provide documents showing records from a vet or breeder, which are fake. Always check it out by calling! Never, never give them a deposit to hold the pet.

Tips To Avoid 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. Also, there are large scale professional scamming organizations from out of the country who obtain U.S. telephone numbers, and e-mail addresses that can't be traced  - so beware!
  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. If they are local and request you to meet them in a parking lot, or outside of their "supposed" dwelling, DON'T do it. They will rob you and hopefully not hurt you, and of course, they won't have this "make believe" pet with them. If they want to meet with you, go to a well lit, security attended mall and bring someone with you.
  8. Bottom line is to ADOPT from a reputable, local rescue group or shelter. Many rescue groups and shelters have weekend adoption events at Petsmart or Petco, or a local business that's participating in their "event". If you're looking for a particular breed, it's reported that many pure breed pets are surrendered. You can also contact them and tell them your preference of breed, and they will get in touch with you when they receive one.

The Charges
  • 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. 
  • 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. 
  • Do research to get a sense of what a fair price is for the pet you are interested in adopting. Think twice if they are selling a purebred dog at a very low price.
  • It should be a red flag if e-mail communications have broken English or very poor grammar. 
Remember, when you do business online, not only could you end up paying a lot of money and not get that pet you had your heart set on, but your personal information could also now be in the wrong hands.

Again - Your best bet is to find a reputable local rescue group or shelter.

Adopting From A Rescue Group

Communication with the group is vital. Is the group answering your questions and are you comfortable?

Even when an adoption group is legitimate, it’s important to make sure you’re comfortable with the group. If problems arise after you adopt, you want to feel sure you’ve adopted from a group that is responsive. 

Taking the time to ask questions about the group, its policies and the pet you’re interested in can give you a sense of whether it’s the right one for you. It can also help you sense whether it’s aboveboard or not.

Here are a few questions you can ask to get the conversation going:
  • Where is the pet currently housed and can I visit him? 
  • Can I meet the pet before I adopt him? (This is a must!
  • What veterinary care has he had so far and what does he need? 
  • What kind of household would be best for him? 
  • Does he have any behavioral concerns that you’ve seen? 
  • Why was he surrendered?
Pet advocates suggest that owners get pets spayed or neutered so they can’t be used by criminals for breeding. It’s also recommended that pets have a microchip implanted, so that they can be identified even if an identifying collar is removed.

Adopting a new pet is an exciting time. Do your research and don’t cut corners during the adoption process.