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The New Scam on the Block

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Many seniors are lonely. After the older adult’s spouse or longtime pets die, the house feels empty. When they want some companionship, the seniors might look for a new pet. We can buy almost anything online today, even a car, so it is not surprising that people browse available pets on websites. You can see the cats and dogs that are up for adoption at your local shelter, without leaving the house.

The problem arises when fraudsters post non-existent pets for sale online and take your money, while leaving you without a pet. The new scam on the block is pet sales websites. Not all pets offered online are part of this criminal activity. However, a significant number are. Seniors are conned out of hundreds of dollars and left heartbroken.

The Scope of the Fake Website Problem

The Better Business Bureau warns that as many as half of all pet sale websites are scam websites. The pet scam typically swindles people out of between $100 and $1,000, although some people have lost up to $5,000 on this rip-off.

How to Recognize a Pet Scam Website

These fraudsters often lift images of pets from legitimate pet sale websites. Con artists are getting more sophisticated at creating websites that look like real businesses. Here are a few tips that could help you avoid falling victim to this scam:

  • Do not wire money for a pet to Cameroon. Many of the pet scammers are in Cameroon. Of course, since scammers can mask their location and run transactions through several countries, you cannot always tell the actual location of the con artist.
  • Never pay for a pet with gift cards. Some of these schemes have customers buy gift cards and call the fraudster with the card numbers.
  • A legitimate pet sale website will not tell you to transfer money from one Walmart to another.
  • Get the sales price in writing, including shipping. Some scammers tack on hundreds of dollars of extra charges, after the victim pays for the pet. The crook demands shipping fees and threatens that the animal will die or get abandoned, unless the customer pays the additional money.
  • Remember that most of the kittens and puppies on pet sale websites do not exist. Do not let yourself get emotionally tied to a non-existent animal.
  • You cannot trust reviews on these websites. Most of the so-called reviews are fake.
  • Only pay with a credit card, so you have a chance of getting your money back, if the transaction turns out to be a scam.
  • Do not tell the seller where you live, before they tell you their location. Some scammers will ask where you live so they can claim the pet is too far away from you for you to pick up the dog or cat. For example, if you say you live in Florida, the con artist will claim to be in Arizona.
  • Check out the pet sale operation on a non-profit website that reports the identity of pet sale scammers. com is an organization that provides this information free of charge.

Legitimate organizations, like the American Kennel Club (AKC), can also provide guidance and information about how to buy pets from reliable sellers.

For more information about estate planning in Orlando, FL (and throughout the rest of Central Florida), visit our estate planning website and be sure to subscribe to our complimentary estate planning e-newsletter while you are there.

References:

AARP. “Fraudsters Sell Nonexistent ‘Pets’ During Holiday Season.” (accessed December 5, 2019) https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2019/holiday-pet-scams.html?intcmp=AE-HP-TTN-R2-POS4-REALPOSS-TODAY

PetScams. “PetScams.com.” (accessed December 5, 2019) https://petscams.com/

Suggested Key Terms: pet scams, scam selling nonexistent pets, puppy scams