17 Jul Pet Scams – How to Identify Pet Adoption or Pet Delivery Fraud
For many people, the pandemic has been lonely and saddening. With restricted movement and being locked away in their homes, people are unable to meet their loved ones and hence the only solace they find is in the companionship of their beloved pets. This has resulted in the surge of pet adoption. Contrary to earlier times when people used to visit animal shelters and pet shops to adopt a cute bunny or a ferocious German Shepherd or those multi-coloured chirping birds, in current times the pandemic has increased the indulgence in online pet shopping. This has led to a whopping surge in pet-related frauds!!
While the number of pet frauds has been at an all-time high in 2020 as compared to 2017 or 2018, not all blame can be shouldered by the ongoing pandemic. There are many notorious cybercriminals who have taken advantage of digitization by creating fraudulent websites with the sole purpose of extracting money from potential pet parents. Progressing from local pet shops to online pet selling and pet relocation websites, this trend has been very closely following the online shopping and delivery platforms and has led cybercriminals and thieves to make money by resorting to illegal means.
What is a Pet Scam/Fraud and how does it work?
Pet Scam/Fraud is illegal money-making by luring potential pet parents and people who want to adopt/buy a pet. This is mostly done online by creating fake websites and posting stolen legitimate information, pictures, and videos on those websites. This kind of money laundering is done as a part of a two-step process.
The first step is to build trust with the potential pet parents and taking them in confidence. This is generally done by narrating emotional pet stories, sending pet content to them, making fake promises of pet’s well-being, swift documentation, and other requirements like a microchip, vet contacts, pet accessories, etc. The purpose of this step is to make the unsuspecting victim pay as soon as possible by convincing them of the ‘fake pet’s’ existence. The amount requested during this step is usually in the form of non-refundable payments for pet adoption, microchipping process, veterinary clinic visit bills, etc.
Once the initial payment is done, then comes the next step of the scamming process which is the transportation cost of the ‘fake pet’. This is done through a fake pet delivery/transportation website which is made to be shown real by adding a few fake relocations done by the offenders. The purpose of this step is to mint as much money as possible in form of refundable payment generally for a specialized ventilated crate in which the fake pet would be transported to the unsuspecting victim.
And as expected, the victim would continue to make payments till the time they realize that they have been trapped in a pet fraud.
Why this scam is an increasing problem is because, during the pandemic and lockdown, the potential pet parents are unable to pay a visit to the pet shop or the actual shelters that put up pets for adoption in person, which they would otherwise do under normal circumstances. And hence many people are pushed to explore the online method of adopting pets thereby indulging in online payments without being sure of the authenticity of such fake pet sellers.
What are some of the warning signs to look out for, to identify pet fraud?
- The scammers will narrate a sad story to go with their offer. “The pet parent passed away”, “change of work or location so there is lesser time to spend with the pet”, “climatic conditions are unsuitable”, “family is going through difficult times are some of the reasons they would cite to convince the victim
- To try to sound more convincing, they would ask questions that appear genuine like the victim’s location, occupation, and family, to show that they genuinely care about nothing else other than the affection and care for the pet
- The offenders would use highly plagiarized text from genuine pet adoption or relocation company websites so that their website looks genuine
- They might not even ask for pet adoption fee and just the payment for pet delivery; might offer expensive pets for just the shipping fee
- They would be willing to offer the pet for free and deliver it to the pet parent directly at a discounted price. Might even sell a popular breed for free or at a price lower than the normal range. The purpose of this is to make the victim pay as soon as possible as such scams start when a potential pet parent is looking to adopt a pet that is available at cheap rates
- The scammers would call back after the pet is considered to be adopted by the victim and everything is set and before the shipping process starts would ask for an additional amount for documentation, upgraded fee, pet food, pet insurance, boarding/quarantine fee, or additional vet bills. On the contrary, a genuine pet adoption agency or pet relocation firm will quote the entire amount ‘upfront’ during the process before finalization
- Would sound like they are in a hurry to ship the pet and once the shipping payment is done there will always be some sort of issue in the process for which they will not be accountable
- Scammers would use names of legitimate breeders, pirate websites, and illegally copy logos of other established companies
- They generally would ask to make payments via payment gateways that are untraceable and non-refundable and strictly object to credit card payment
- They might claim that they work with a legitimate organization that is based out of one country/state and ask for the payments to be done to another country/state
- Such criminals would insist on providing the pet delivery service from their own shipping firm and will always want to know the victim’s location before specifying the current location of the pet, to obtain enough time for making up a fraud shipping service
- Would keep using the terms like ‘transportation service’, ‘courier service’, ‘pet relocation service’ but not tell the name of the courier service company to deliver the pet
- In case you get an email from the alleged pet seller to look genuine, details like a contact number or office address would be missing
- Communications over emails, text messages, or even telephonic conversations would have language fluency issues, bad spelling, and multiple grammatical errors
How to prevent pet fraud?
- Always ask for complete details of the pet seller including all contact information, shipper/courier company’s name in case the offender is claiming to use a third-party transportation service, and breeder’s identification and the registration number in case the pet seller is posing as a breeder or is able to give breeder’s name. Do this to be doubly sure that you are interacting with a genuine company or individual for pet adoption
- As much as possible, try to shop in person to adopt/buy pets from the local animal shelters, genuine breeders, and pet stores
- Do your proper and extensive research of the mentioned company/firm from where you are about to purchase/adopt a pet, and check out the reviews and experiences of pet parents
- In case you are unable to pay an in-person visit to see your pet, set up a live video chat to see the pet or constantly ask for pet pictures in different poses at different locations
- If someone claims to be using a delivery service from a certain company or working with a specific firm, look that company up on the internet and if the name is valid then talk to the company representatives directly
- If in doubt, ask questions related to delivery/transport of the pet; if a fake breeder or pet seller claims to be using a transport/courier service, call up the transportation company to crosscheck and verify if they have got any information or request for pet delivery from the alleged pet seller
- If you have not seen the pet prior to shipping, try to make your own arrangements to collect the pet from any location
- DO NOT make any payment before you consider all of the above-mentioned precautions and are sure that the pet seller is genuine
What if you have been scammed?
- Report the scam/fraud where you saw the advertisement mentioning whatever details you have of the scammer
- Bring this to the notice of the payment gateway or the platform through which the payment was made.
Many times, customers complain of being scammed by fraudulent criminals who through the name of ‘Carry My Pet’ make money illegally by fraud sale/delivery of pets. One such example is, ‘carry my pets’ being used by an offender and asking for pet insurance and delivery fee to transport the pet to the victim before pet shipping. Upon the payment made by the victim, did she realize that she has been scammed!!
Carry My Pet is a top pet relocation company based out of Delhi, India, that provides both domestic and international pet relocations. The company provides a wide range of services including pet microchipping, rabies titre test, and cages/kennels among others.
The customers can find out more about the services and different departments that work tirelessly to make ‘Carry My Pet’ the popular brand that it is today, at www.carrymypet.com.