South Africans are warned against online pet scams where criminals advertise and sell pedigree cats and dogs which do not actually exist.
A recent Carte Blanche episode exposed the method behind the scam, which resembles the well-known 419 advance-fee fraud.
These scams all work the same – people are promised something they really want, but before they can get it, they are made to pay an up-front fee.
With a 419-scam, people are typically promised a large amount of money. Before they can access this money, however, they are asked to make a payment in advance.
The online pet scam works the same way. People who want to purchase pets are asked for payments in advance for things like transport and animal cages.
How online pet scams work
Online pet scams typically start with a supposed breeder or pet seller offering pedigree pets for a discounted price or even free online.
Many of these criminals say they are giving a pet away because a child passed away, they have to move houses, or they cannot care for it any longer.
These scammers go through a lot of trouble to make themselves look legitimate, using high-quality photos of the pets and professionally designed websites.
Once a victim shows an interest in the pet, the scammer begins demanding advanced payments for things like shipping, a special cage, insurance, and special medical shots.
Even if the victim is conned into paying for all of these false costs, the pet they are hoping to receive never arrives.
How to spot a pet scam
The basic rule for any online scam is that if the deal is too good to be true, it is inevitably a scam.
Carte Blanche provided a list of tips to follow to avoid falling for an online pet scam.
- Unless you can physically see, feel, and touch the pet, stay away.
- Look for registries and reputable breeders to buy pedigree pets instead of looking for pets online.
- Do not trust any websites advertising pets, even if they are well-designed.
- Research the seller’s contact details to see if there are complaints about them online.
- When a seller does not give an address or suddenly moves addresses, it is a major red flag.
- If you are told that the pet will be shipped to you, be wary of a scam.
- Be careful if the seller wants to know where you live or what property you have.
- If the seller claims that the puppies are AKC (American Kennel Club) registered, it is likely to be a scammer.
- Ask for photos of the pet and do a Google reverse image search to ensure the images are unique.
- Always ask to see the pet before buying it.