RALEIGH, N.C. – Adopting a pet is a big decision, and many people across the area will decide to bring a pet into their family this year. Better Business Bureau of Eastern North Carolina wants to warn you against online pet adoption scams to make sure you are getting a pet from a reputable place.

In pet adoption scams, an online search might end with a would-be pet owner paying hundreds of dollars or more to purchase a pet that ultimately doesn’t exist. BBB advises extreme caution when shopping for a pet online, especially in light of scammers’ evolving tactics. 

This year, a Raleigh resident lost $1,600 to scammers who promised to ship a puppy to them. Once payment was sent, the resident asked for proof that the puppy was in the seller’s possession, after that all contact ceased. 

Another victim lost $2,300 to a pet scam where they transferred money for the price of a puppy, then were asked for more money to rent a crate to deliver the dog, which never arrived. That is when the victim realized they had been blocked by the scammer.

“Pet scams are unfortunately all too common,” said Mallory Wojciechowski, president and CEO of BBB. “We urge consumers to be diligent before adding a pet to the family. Far too often, people are losing money due to these believable scams.”

BBB Offers the Following Tips for the Adding a Pet to Your Family:

  • See the pet in person before paying any money. Scam Tracker reports show that fraudsters are telling people looking for pets that they cannot meet the animals before sending money. Since scammers are not likely to comply with the request, this may help avoid a scam. You could also ask to video conference with the seller and the pet if an in-person visit isn’t an option.
  • Do a reverse image search of the photo of the pet and search for a distinctive phrase in the description.
  • Do research to get a sense of a fair price for the breed you are considering. Think twice if someone advertises a purebred dog for free or at a deeply discounted price. It could be a fraudulent offer.
  • Check out a local animal shelter for pets you can meet before adopting. 

Who to Contact if you are the Victim of a Pet Scam:

  • Petscams.com – tracks complaints, catalogs puppy scammers and endeavors to get fraudulent pet sales websites taken down.
  • Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – to file a complaint online or call 877-FTC-Help.
  • BBB Scam Tracker – to report a scam online and to check what other consumers have come across.
  • Your credit card issuer – if you provided your credit card number, even if the transaction was not completed.