Puppy Scams are online con games perpetrated by organized crime. This con is being carried out on a large scale, with criminal organizations developing hundreds of websites to encourage consumers to part with their money. This scam, also known as “Puppy Scamming,” may use cats, ponies, tortoises, or any other animals as bait.
Puppy scamming normally works in three parts:
The hook is straightforward. The con artist will advertise pets for adoption or sale. These con artists will make their own website and post ads on Facebook, Craigslist, TradingPost, and other classified ad websites.
They will contact you via mail, SMS, or phone to persuade you that they have a pet for sale or donation.
The aim is to emotionally invest the intended victim in a fictional pet. It is easier to con people when they act on their emotions.
At any given time, a scammer can target up to 50 people. They respond to you with a series of “canned” responses that they copy and paste. The emails are long and rambling, asking and answering questions that you haven’t asked. If you ask a question that isn’t in their script, they will respond quickly and succinctly.
If the pet is being sold rather than offered for adoption, the scammer will trick their victims into parting with hundreds of dollars.
The majority of money is stolen in this part of the scam.
You’ve become emotionally attached to the animal. You are still financially invested if the pet was sold rather than adopted.
The con artist will set up a Pet Delivery Website for you to monitor the arrival of your new pet.
You’ll be given a “tracking number” that will take you to a scammer-created and-controlled website. This page will inform you that your pet is on its way.
You will receive an email a day later informing you that your delivery has been postponed due to the payment of fees. To persuade you that the fees are valid, the scammer will update the website he or she developed for you. Fees may include the following:
- Delivery fees
- Caging fees
Fees can vary; there isn’t exactly a limit. If you pay one, they will continue to demand more until you can no longer afford to pay or you know it is a scam.
Since you are emotionally attached to the pet you are expecting, once you say you can’t pay any more, scammers will take advantage and accuse you of cruelty for delaying the delivery.
If you refuse to pay the scammer any more money, they will threaten you. “Animal Abandonment” is one of the most common threats. This is just part of the ruse. Animal abandonment is a felony, and understandably so, but animal abandonment laws would not apply in this case, even if it were valid.
Puppy scammers can also build a website that looks like it belongs to the police department. They will continue to call, email, and text you if they feel they can intimidate you into paying more money.
Why does the Puppy Scam Work?
Scams involving pets are nothing new. They’ve been around since the beginning of online scams. They’ve become more of a problem in the last few years. According to the Better Business Bureau’s study (available here), a disproportionately large number of those targeted in the schemes are in their late teens or early twenties.
This may be due to a variety of factors. To begin with, online shopping has become the norm. You can now buy almost anything online, and the younger generation has embraced this trend.
Second, this type of fraud was not as common in the past. This strategy is now being used on a large scale by criminal gangs to defraud customers.
Finally, the feelings are taken advantage of first. The scammer would use the most charming images they can find on the internet to make you fall in love with a pet they don’t own. It’s close to a traditional “Love Scam” in this way.
Education here is the key.
It’s important to do your research when you’re adopting a pet; regardless of type. Review the company as thoroughly as possible. Ask a lot of questions. Be suspicious. As the saying goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry!