Hoosiers looking for new pets warned against online scammers

Hoosiers looking to find a new furry friend via the Internet need to watch out for scammers, the Indiana Attorney General’s office announced Thursday.

Attorney General Curtis Hill and Indiana State Veterinarian Bret D. Marsh informed Hoosiers in a Thursday announcement to watch out for online pet-adoption scams. Both offices have received recent complaints from citizens who made down payments on animals they found on the internet. However, the pet-seekers later learned after paying multiple fees and never receiving animals that they were tricked by fraudsters.

“These scammers know that increased numbers of people are shopping online during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Hill said in a statement. “They’re banking on consumers’ willingness to arrange delivery of pets sight unseen — other than the cute pictures consumers may have seen on the Internet.”

As part of their scam, fake websites appearing to be operated by legitimate entities are created, either selling or adopting pets. The websites may be advertised on social media or in email pitches, where fraudulent ads often feature photos of puppies or kittens, according to Marsh, who leads the Indiana State Board of Animal Health.

“Most times the pet does not actually exist at all,” Marsh said. “And scammers try to milk their victims for as much money as possible.”

The AG’s Office says that after a pet is ordered and a payment is made for the pet and shipping charges, would-be buyers often learn that other fees are required for vaccinations or other veterinary care. Additionally, the scammers craft stories about additional shipping expenses. For example, claiming that an animal has landed in another state, requiring some type of permit expense for the stopover at an airport.

Notice of such scams nationwide have been taken by the FBI and National Consumers League, who offer these tips to avoid the scams:

  • Meet the pet in person if at all possible.
  • Never pay any fee to obtain an animal that you have not seen with your own eyes (as opposed to via pictures or videos online).
  • Don’t pay to ship a pet if you can’t verify the seller is a reputable breeder or rescue organization.
  • Research the seller before sending any form of payment. Look for contact information, check credentials, and confirm reviews from previous clients.
  • If you virtually chat with the seller, watch for odd phrasing or typos.
  • If the seller asks you to pay via wire transfer or gift card, don’t. There’s a huge chance it’s a scam.
  • If anyone asks you to send money overseas, particularly to pet adoption scam hotspots such as Cameroon or India, it is a scam.
  • Beware of “free” pet offers online. These are often simply ruses to get you to pay shipping or other fees for non-existent animals.

Any Hoosier who believes they have been the victim of a scam or targeted by scammers should file a complaint with the Attorney General’s office at indianaconsumer.com or by calling 1-800-382-5516.

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

{{ articles_remaining }}
Free {{ article_text }} Remaining
{{ articles_remaining }}
Free {{ article_text }} Remaining Article limit resets on
{{ count_down }}